“Beauty and the Beast” has been adapted many times. There‘s the famous Disney animated account, a Viking version and even a werewolf retelling but the new Vanessa Hudgens film, “Beastly,” places the story of not judging a book by its cover where it belongs, in the most judgmental place on earth—high school.
Based on Alex Flinn’s 2007 teen romance novel of the same name, “Beastly” stars Brit heartthrob Alex Pettyfer as Kyle Kingson, a wealthy high school senior with a nasty streak. When he disses a teen witch (billionaire fashionista Mary Kate Olsen) at a school function she casts a spell on him that makes him “as aggressively unattractive on the outside as he is on the inside.” Transformed into a half-human, half-“Enemy Mine” looking creature with Mike Tyson-esque facial tattoos, beastly Kyle is given one year to find his beauty, a true love, or he will look that way forever. Enter Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who might be able to help him break the spell.
The early 2000s may go down as the heyday of the human – supernatural teen romance movie. Vampires, werewolves, aliens and, well, whatever Kyle is, as the otherworldly Casanovas in movies like “Twilight,” “I Am Number Four,” and now “Beastly,” are perfect analogies for the way that many disaffected teens feel in high school, but honestly, what happened to girls who fell for the school’s quarterback? Catching a ball isn’t angsty enough anymore I guess.
“Beastly,” however, has a corner on the teen angst that makes up much of young adult entertainment these days. In one scene Kyle deactivates a social networking site with the words, “I am no more.” It isn’t until he takes guidance from a flamboyant tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) who leaves the readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic to the eggheads and focuses on teaching his student about being a decent human being that Kyle begins to understand that life “isn’t about how others see you, it’s about how you see yourself.”
Good messages in an uneven movie that has some very effective moments early on but gets more ridiculous as the credits approach.
Hudgens is a likeable leading lady and Neil Patrick Harris tries to insert some spark into the proceedings, but the Beast’s new tribal make-up is rather silly and his transformation from Alex Pettyfer to Alex Prettyfer isn’t a big enough payoff to have any real emotional impact.