Beauty And The Beast (PG)

Get Out (15)

THOUGH some have questioned the need for Disney to produce live-action remakes of its animated classics, the variety in tone and approach of the films so far has more than justified the ambition, each finding a different way to broaden the Disney audience. Casting two incredibly popular stars in an indelibly romantic story certainly won’t hurt.

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Beauty And The Beast is less witty than Cinderella and nowhere near as technologically cutting-edge as Jungle Book, but it is more buoyant and engaging than Alice In Wonderland. Like the 1991 original, it works best as a terrific story accompanied by wonderful, toe-tapping songs.

Harry Potter’s Emma Watson stars as the bookish and becoming Belle, who dreams of a life away from her provincial village, and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens the prince who has been transformed into a monster because of his vain and vacuous nature and desperately in need of someone’s love to break the spell.

Once drawn to the furry sociopath’s castle in search of her lost father (Kevin Kline), Belle is first captive, then willing guest, with the prince’s servants – themselves transformed into household objects – on hand to entertain her. Meanwhile, village lothario Gaston (Luke Evans) is eager to make his move on her.

Director Bill Condon has a musical pedigree (Chicago, Dreamgirls) and choreographs such showstoppers as Belle, Gaston and Be Our Guest with appealing verve. If at times this feels like a scene-by-scene remake, freshness comes in the flesh-and-blood actors.

Watson's performance suffers a little from a fixed, rather smug curl of the lip, but she’s in fine voice and makes a good, feisty Belle. Stevens has the short straw, buried for the most part beneath his monster garb. Around the leads, Evans has a ball as the simultaneously silly and unscrupulous Gaston, while Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen are good value as, respectively, a candelabra, a teapot and a clock.

Meanwhile, it’s nothing new for a horror film to have a political subtext, though Get Out could be the first to deal with racism in a completely explicit way.

Writer/director Jordan Peele is best known in the States for sketch comedy, but has made a massive impact with his film debut. This is a bravura piece of work – creepy, funny, imaginative, daring, a genre movie that is sleekly configured to its theme and suggests that bigotry in the US today cannot be confined to supporters of Donald Trump.

Chris (British actor Daniel Kaluuya) is a successful young photographer, who’s been dating Rose (Allison Williams from Girls) for four months when she asks him home to meet the parents. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks. “I don’t wanna be chased off the lawn with a shotgun.” That won’t be the half of it.

But Rose is adamant that her folks Missy and Dean Armitage (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) are the perfect white liberal couple, who would have voted for Obama a third time if they could. And so off they drive to the country pile, where the family is holding its annual community get-together.

At first, all Chris has to contend with is the awkward chitchat of people desperately trying to be politically correct when they’re far from it. Ironically, it’s the few black people in attendance whose strange behaviour makes him most uncomfortable.

Carefully modulating satire with an array of horror tropes, Peele leads Chris towards a new notion of slavery that is truly macabre, while also allowing for a violent finale that is both genre appropriate and radically uplifting.

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