Tale as Old as Time, Now on DVD

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Beauty and the Beast Live DVD

EMMA WATSON and DAN STEVENS eat up the screen in Disney's live-action adaptation of the hit Disney Princess musical, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Watson portrays Belle, an educated girl forced to live in a small village of people who seem to revel proudly in their ignorance. She is shunned by them, with the exception of the brutish Gaston (LUKE EVANS), a military captain without a war, who has set his sights on Belle as his new conquest. When Belle's father, Maurice (KEVIN KLINE), takes a wrong turn, he ends up at the Beast's castle, running afoul of the master of the place when he plucks a rose to take home to his daughter.

When Belle volunteers herself to take her father's place, the house staff -- all of whom have been enchanted into household items -- are excited, seeing Belle's presence as the key to breaking the spell that has been cast over the castle, making them what they are and making the master of the house a beast. But to fully break the spell, the two have to fall in love.

You know the rest of the story -- and if you don't, you should. Gaston and his lackey, Le Fou (JOSH GAD) plot to kill the Beast, Lumiere (EWAN MCGREGOR) and Cogsworth (IAN MCKELLAN) squabble while Mrs. Potts (EMMA THOMPSON) is the calming voice of reason. It's all very familiar.

And yet -- there's something there that wasnt' there before.

The musicals have been tweaked just ever so much. "Be Our Guest" is delivered in a style so over the top that it goes beyond visually stunning to visually numbing. The tale is expanded upon to give Le Fou a bit more of a conscience -- and in fact finds him fighting on the side of the Beast's castle in the grand climax. And we learn that the spell cast over the castle included one of amnesia by all those who knew about the castle and its inhabitants -- a spell that impacted the spouses and parents in the village so that they forgot their family members. It's an expansion of the original, adding a little here, a little there, sometimes good, sometimes not, but ultimately delivering an experience just as emotionally satisfying as the original. There are also new house members like Maestro Cadenza (STANLEY TUCCI) and a backstory for the wardrobe, Madame Garderobe (AUDRA MCDONALD).

If you loved the original, you won't be disappointed by this live action version. Watson's singing is a sheer delight, delivered with all the right emotion in all the right places, and we finally learn what happened to Belle's mother in added scenes to explain why her father chose to settle in a town as backward as the one where they live.

4.5 / 5.0