In this contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast, 17 year-old Kyle Kingsbury (Alex Pettyfer) is running for a student council at his elite Manhattan prep school. The cocky son of an equally vacuous, arrogant TV new anchor (Peter Krause), Kyle firmly believes, “Beautiful people get it better.”
Of course, Kyle has to get his comeuppance and learn a lesson. So when he mocks Goth-like, misfit Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) at a dance, she turns him into a disfigured “beast,” informing him that in order for the spell to be broken, within the year, Kyle must find someone to truly love him. And that turns out to be Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), an earnest scholarship student who happens to move in with him when her junkie father kills a drug dealer and she needs to disappear.
Problem is: in writer/director Daniel Barnz’s (“Phoebe in Wonderland”) sanitized, shallow version of the young adult novel by Alex Flinn, the uglified “beast” is hardly off-putting. Instead of a frighteningly hairy, fanged creature with claws, he’s a scarred, tattooed, motorcycle-riding, hairless hunk, which misses the point entirely. And living in luxury atop a Brooklyn brownstone is hardly banishment into a dense forest. It’s an indisputable fact that neither former British model Alex Pettyfer (“I Am Number Four”) nor Vanessa Hudgens (perpetual ingénue of Disney’s “High School Musical”) seems to have a grasp on what constitutes a dramatic characterization. Of course, the banal observation that the supposedly disfigured ‘beast’ has the words “Embrace” and “Suck” tattooed on his eyebrows somewhat defeats the disguise. The only cast members who seems to be on-story are Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”), as the wise-cracking blind tutor hired by Kyle’s father, and Lisa Gay Hamilton, as the savvy Jamaican housekeeper. And to add insult to injury, the Montreal/Quebec street scenes look nothing like New York.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Beastly” is a pointless 2, a clueless inanity that’s destined for the DVD discard bin, while Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” remains on the top shelf.