Review: Beauty and the Beast remake a joyous triumph

In this most public of cinematic confessionals, I have one shocking revelation: I have not seen the original 1991 animated Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast.

I blame Johnny Utah of course. I was far too busy with Point Break that year, not to mention Arnie, Hannibal, Thelma and Louise.

With that declaration made, I confirm it was with entirely fresh eyes I wandered into the cinema to watch Disney's new live action re-imagining of their Oscar-winning musical Beauty and the Beast.

Yes, I knew the music and the basic story, but I wasn't an evangelical die-hard fan going in with the high expectations of someone who holds that story dear to their hearts.

With those eyes - here is my review.

This is of course the classic fairy-tale of a handsome but self-absorbed prince who makes a bad call and ends up being magically turned into a "beast". All the rest of his castle's inhabitants fall under this terrible spell, becoming everything from candle sticks to tea cups.

The only way to lift this dreaded curse is for the Beast to fall in love, and be loved in return. And this he must do before the final petal on the magic red rose falls to the snowy ground.

It will come as no surprise given my aforementioned watch-list for 1991 that a fairy-tale romance like this is about as far from my filmic sensibilities as you can get. But as it transpires, many years later, the engaging charm of the story and those who deliver it, managed to suck me in despite that.

Harry Potter alum Emma Watson is the titular beauty Belle, who makes quite a big deal about being very different from all the other girls in the village. Spurning the quite sickly charms of the village's most eligible bachelor, Gaston (Luke Evans clearly having a ball), she has far more interest in books than boys.

When her father goes missing, she finds him locked up in a mysterious castle, held captive by a mysterious beast. She swaps places to save her father, and the rest of this well-known story is, as they say, history.

Fans of this beloved soundtrack should feel well-served; along with their favourites from the original are two new songs from Oscar heavyweights Alan Menken and Tim Rice, and the bigger song-and-dance routines seem to fare well enough in a live-action setting.

But it's the big number at the castle, 'Be Our Guest', where the gloriously seamless animation simply blows the mind.

There's no question the visual experience for me was the stand-out highlight of this new Disney outing, and the big reveal of the characters at the end added to the joyous finale - entirely winning me over.

Four stars.