Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens in a scene in BeastlyMost people know the story of Beauty and the Beast and many have seen Disney’s animated retelling of the tale. Beastly is a modern-day, live-action rendition of the narrative starring a couple of up-and-coming actors: Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens. It takes the notion that “love is blind” to its limit as a beautiful young woman falls for a man whose exterior doesn’t match his interior (at least not any more). Unfortunately, in this case, this fantastical romance was better left to the animators.

Seventeen-year-old Kyle (Pettyfer) is the spoiled, shallow and incredibly popular prince of his high school kingdom. Entirely captivated and empowered by his own physical appearance, Kyle foolishly chooses Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), a goth classmate rumoured to be a witch, as his latest target for humiliation. Unfazed by his cruel behaviour, Kendra decides to teach him a lesson – she transforms him into someone as unattractive on the outside as he is on the inside. Now he has one year to find someone who can see past the surface and love him, or he will remain unattractive forever. His only hope is an unassuming classmate he never noticed named Lindy (Hudgens).

For one character, the Kyle’s personalities are polar opposites; Kyle is an absurdly egotistical jerk and Hunter (his post-curse identity) is a compassionate nice guy. It’s difficult to believe he made this transition in less than a year (it took Disney’s Beast several). On the other hand, the mutilating of his body is interesting as it incorporates many singular elements that people consider normal: tattoos, scars, hairlessness, etc. These are attributes his character despised, but they’re not ones that everyone would immediately equate with being ugly. Therefore, it’s not completely implausible that someone less shallow than him would be able to see past the disfigurements.

The story may be a classic, but the dialogue is laughable as evidenced by the numerous eruptions of laughter that filled the theatre at otherwise non-humorous moments. The easiest explanation is it’s too cliché. Kyle says the expected thing when you expect him to say it; ditto for Lindy. Conversely, Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Kyle’s blind tutor, is intentionally and successfully hilarious. He provides most of the film’s limited entertainment. Even Lisa Gay Hamilton, who is Mrs. Pots to NPH’s Lumieré, is also more captivating than the main characters.

It’s a little sad to see a timeless tale so disappointingly executed. What potential it may have had is lost in the weak script.

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