WEEK IN REVIEW

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The Independent Culture
THE MUSICAL

Beauty and the Beast

Robert Jess Roth directs Disney's pounds 10m staging of its hit animated film. Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice with Julie-Alanah Brighten as Belle and Alasdair Harvey as the Beast plus a cast of 40, a band of 25 and a backstage crew of 69.

Paul Taylor felt it "doesn't have the imagination to leave anything to the imagination". "Aggressively winsome and accidentally camp ... talks down to the audience," winced the Standard. "Often astoundingly spectacular ... everything seems, in the bad sense, to have been choreographed," sighed the FT. "How you always dreamed panto-mime scenery should be ... If you have kids, prepare to take them now," sang the Mail. "The Disney organisation is to entertainment what smart missiles are to modern warfare," alerted The Times. "The most preposterously spectacular, unashamedly kitsch and, at times, genuinely glorious pantomime you have ever seen," frothed the Telegraph. "Brings out the child in all of us," melted The Guardian.

At the Dominion Theatre, London WC2 (0171-416 6060) until, well, probably the next millennium.

Doesn't come close to the Young Vic's Beauty and the Beast, which cost just pounds 70,000. Sit back and watch the budget

the TV DRAMA Melissa Alan Bleasdale has restructured and updated a forgotten Sixties drama by thriller expert Francis Durbridge, turning it into a glossy five-part TV serial starring Jennifer Pride and Prejudice Ehle with Tim Dutton, and a sackload of suspects and supporters including Julie Walters and Diana Weston.

Thomas Sutcliffe found himself hooked. "Built for pleasure - and delivering it in large measure ... delicious excursions from thriller functionalism." "The makings of a superb, body-strewn psychological thriller. I urge all those who have video recorders: prepare to use them now," revelled the Mail. "A de luxe production," smiled The Guardian. "Ambitious ... avoids by miles any known formula," nodded the Standard. "An intriguing start but it really is about time the plot started to unfold," frowned the Express. "So disappointing in its first episode, picked up momentum and mystery in episodes 2 and 3," approved the Telegraph. "Hands up who has a clue what might be going on in Alan Bleasdale's lushly filmed but eerily unengaging drama," sneered The Times.

Final episodes on Monday and Tuesday, 9pm on Channel Four.

Bleasdale has taken a genre piece and given it wit and flair. Like a painting-by-numbers kit filled in by Velasquez.

THE FILM When We Were Kings Leon Gast's Oscar-winning documentary about the "Rumble in the Jungle", the 1974 World Heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, which took place in Zaire under the "generosity" (to the tune of $10m) of President Mobutu. With commentary by Norman Mailer and Spike Lee.

Adam Mars-Jones proclaimed it "an out-standing screen documentary ... [but] it "raises consciousness" without being willing or able to confront uncomfortable facts." "Superb ... a world captured in the throes of its own mutation," hailed the FT.

"If you fear films about boxing, be pacified: this is a film about humanity triumphant," gloried The Times. "As film-making this is scrappy and shallow ... but these reservations are trivial set against the film's central attraction: Ali himself," approved the Telegraph. "The fight itself remains a stunner ... Ali gives it an emotional reach the film scarcely deserves," agreed Time Out. "A slick piece of spin doctoring for an unsurpassed icon," decided The Guardian. "An outstanding portrayal of Muhammad Ali at his most defiant," declared Boxing News.

Cert PG, 87 mins, Virgin Haymarket (0181-970 6016) and on nationwide release.

A fascinating, but flawed portrait of an inspirational figure.

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