- Rated PG-13
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All photos © CBS Films
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s a fairy tale that dates back as far as the 1700s, but we’ve never seen “Beauty and the Beast” imagined quite like it is in Daniel Barnz’s big screen adaptation of the young-adult novel, "Beastly," written by Alex Flinn. That’s because the film delivers a modern day take on the material by setting the story in the cutthroat world of high school, where witches would have a field day cursing callous teenagers who don’t have the life experience to know better. It’s exactly the type of movie you’d expect “Twilight” fans to swoon over. Anyone else would be better off watching the 1991 Disney classic, because while “Beastly” is certainly the most unique iteration of the story, it’s also the most pointless.
Alex Pettyfer stars as Kyle Kingson, the vain and spoiled prince of a Brooklyn private school who believes that beautiful people are superior to those who haven’t been blessed with good looks. But when the target of his latest public humiliation turns out to be a witch disguised as a high school student (Mary-Kate Olsen), she curses him by physically disfiguring his face and body with scars, strange piercings and creepy tattoos – a transformation that will become permanent unless he can find someone to express their love for him within a year. Upon learning of what’s happened to his son, Kyle’s estranged father (Peter Krause) moves him into a secluded house in the city and hires a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) to continue his education. Kyle’s only hope to reverse the curse is a fellow classmate named Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a girl he previously ignored, but who might be the only one that can love him for who he is on the inside.
Barnz’s script hits all the major notes from the fairy tale, but often at the risk of looking absolutely ridiculous in their execution. The most egregious of these is the manner in which Lindy comes to live in Kyle’s house – a subplot that involves Kyle offering Lindy protection from her drug addict father’s dealer after he threatens to kill her. It feels too forced to take seriously, although it’s still not as silly as the fact that there’s nothing particularly beastly about Kyle’s appearance. He looks more like a discarded “Star Trek” villain or the lead singer of a heavy metal band than the beast we’re more familiar with, but just in case you don’t think he looks particularly ugly, there’s a tattoo on his back that tells us by not-so-subtly hiding the word in one of the thorny trees that adorn his body.
There’s also no way that Hudgens’ character would lack social status in a school that bases popularity on attractiveness, although perhaps she just doesn’t have the desire to hang with the cool crowd. Either that, or Hudgens is an even more terrible actress than we all thought, because her performance is completely devoid of any personality. Pettyfer fares a little better (especially under all that make-up), while Neil Patrick Harris injects some much-needed humor into the film as Kyle’s witty tutor. In the end, though, there’s not enough substance to make “Beastly” anything more than just another cheesy teen romance movie. You have to applaud the filmmakers for thinking outside the box and trying to breathe new life into a classic fable, but when the end product fails to remind you what made that fable so memorable to begin with, it loses its purpose.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Sony’s Blu-ray release of “Beastly” is a fairly ho-hum affair, with extras like deleted scenes, a standard EPK (“A Classic Story Retold”), and a make-up featurette (“Creating the Perfect Beast”) that just scratches the surface. Also included is an alternate ending that’s much more fairy tale-like in nature and a music video for Kristina & The Dolls.