Spoiler alert: I'm joining the ranks of those who love the new Beauty and the Beast film.
I've got to say, after my initial excitement at the announcement a long time ago, I got slightly nervous about this remake. I'm one of millions of girls who adored Beauty and the Beast when I was younger, identifying with Belle's bookish ways and loving every song and dress.
I'm a big fan of the animated film and of the stage musical, so I wasn't quite sure where the new film would fit into that well-crafted world.
Let me dive right in and say that I loved Emma Watson as Belle. When she was first announced, I had my doubts, but after she'd been on screen a few minutes I was sold. I thought her voice suited the songs nicely, she played the part well and she looked absolutely beautiful, too. She also deserves credit for the fact she must have done a lot of her acting to empty screens and empty rooms, such as in the 'Be Our Guest' sequence, but she pulled that off pretty well.
Dan Stevens' Beast was also a success in my eyes. I enjoyed his singing, and the fact the Beast looked so human in many ways, especially facially. I thought the 'Something There' montage was really nicely done, and found the chemistry between Belle and the Beast believable.
Luke Evans and Josh Gad pulled off the double act of Gaston and LeFou brilliantly, and elicited all the laughs those roles deserve. Kevin Kline as Maurice was also a lovely bit of casting - I enjoyed his scenes very much.
The world of the castle was beautifully created, and visually was a real spectacle. The human-like qualities of the animate objects were done well, and the vocal work of the actors behind them really worked. A special mention goes to Ewan McGregor's French accent - I had no idea it was him until the end! The only one I was slightly disappointed by was Emma Thompson, who I think I thought would be the perfect Mrs Potts, so the fact she didn't blow me away left me a little let down. Having said that, there was nothing 'bad' about the performance.
And then to the overall 'feel' of the film. It had all the spirit and joy of the original animation, and group scenes such as 'Gaston' and 'Belle' were really just like watching the animated characters turn to life. The important moments were all there, like the reveal of the yellow dress and every song we know and love, with a few extra embellishments to add more depth to this new telling of the tale. It was nice to get some insight into what happened to Belle's mother (although I'm not sure I particularly liked the route it went down), and I liked the little addition of the villagers forgetting the castle and its inhabitants existed, leading to some emotional and comedic reunions at the end!
I came out of the cinema feeling like I had truly been whisked away and swept along in a magical story I've known for years. It's visually beautiful, carefully and lovingly made, and is definitely a version of the story I will be re-watching in the future.