‘Beastly’ isn’t very beautiful

 

“Beastly” is just as superficial
and obsessed with looks as the characters and the mindset it rails against,
which would seem like a bitter, frustrating irony if it merited the emotional
reaction to care that much.

Alex Pettyfer, who isn’t exactly on
a roll between this and the bombastic sci-fi flick “I Am Number Four,” stars as
Kyle, the blonde, chiselled son of a blonde, chiselled New York news anchor
(Peter Krause) whose idea of parenting is preaching that looking good is all
that matters in life. When we first see Kyle, he’s exercising in his underwear,
which gives you an idea of where writer-director Daniel Barnz is going in
adapting Alex Finn’s novel, a young-adult take on “Beauty and the Beast.” He’s
arrogant, moneyed and cruel, which makes him the perfect guy to rule his posh
Manhattan prep school. It’s like, why not? Nothing else here even remotely
resembles any kind of nuanced reality, so we may as well play up all possible
stereotypes.

One day, Kyle crosses classmate
Kendra, who may or may not be a witch. Mary-Kate Olsen plays her with
raccoonish eye liner, huge hair and flowing black clothes, as if she’s going as
Stevie Nicks for Halloween. Kendra places a curse on Kyle that renders him
“ugly.” Suddenly, his head is shaved and he’s covered with facial tattoos and
scars that make Mike Tyson look understated. The thing is, Kyle’s markings are
so artful and stylized, they’re actually cool-looking, and not at all hideous.
He is not an animal.

Still, he’s stuck this way unless
he can find someone within one year’s time who will love him for him — for the
inner beauty that supposedly lurks beneath his Abercrombie & Fitch-model
exterior. That person ends up being fellow student Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens of
the “High School Musical” series), who’s described as a social misfit.
Basically, she dresses in a bohemian manner but she still looks like Vanessa
Hudgens.

Through a wholly unbelievable
series of contrivances, Lindy ends up moving in with Kyle — whom she doesn’t
recognize, and whose name she thinks is Hunter — into the Brooklyn Heights
brownstone with sprawling Manhattan views that constitutes his exile. A tutor
(Neil Patrick Harris) visits them just to keep them up to date on school work.
And get this — he’s blind! But he’s the only one who can really see what’s
happening. No, it’s not terribly subtle, but Harris livens things up a bit, and
his snappy, sarcastic performance is the only thing that makes “Beastly” even
vaguely tolerable. But hey, at least “Beastly” is short.

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