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Beastly

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Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens in Beastly
Released on Friday, Apr 22 2011

> Video Interview: Vanessa Hudgens

The idea of teen-ifying a classic fairy tale is hardly a new one - Cinderella, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and others have all been given a contemporary twist or two in the past. The latest hand-me-down story to be given that MTV-generation gloss is Beauty and the Beast. Here, the action is transferred to modern-day New York, where the positively beastly Kyle (Alex 'Prettyfer' Pettyfer) swans around high school as though he's a gorgeous gift to the world. Not only does he revel in the attention and respect granted by his pretty face, he's brave/stupid/arrogant enough to tell everyone that it's his high cheekbones that make them love him so. "Embrace the suck", he urges those less genetically well-endowed than himself.

Enter witchy Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), who gives him a stern telling off - and a warning. He inevitably refuses to change his ways, and she curses him. Gone are his pretty locks and flawless complexion. In comes baldness, tattoos, scars and knobbly bits. Naturally, Kyle is offered the chance to return to his old self - he just needs someone to tell him that they love him (of course!). That must happen before the year is out, or he'll stay all ugly forever. After exhausting medical science, Kyle's rich dad gets him a place out in the middle of nowhere to hide him from the world. After moping for a bit, he remembers the kindly (and gorgeous) Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens). Can circumstances conspire to have her stay over at his getaway? Will she eventually profess her love for him, thus breaking the curse? What do you think?

It's all very silly stuff, and attempts to marry the fairytale and the modern elements don't ever really succeed. There's many a stupid grin from the audience as Pettyfer stomps around his big house trying to work out how to get Lindy to love him. Instead of a talking candlestick, he has the help of a dry-witted blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) and Jamaican-born housekeeper Zola (LisaGay Hamilton), who is poor, but dripping with old school wisdom and understanding. No, really. The problem is that Kyle's early unpleasantness really doesn't warrant his punishment, and his hamfisted, self-involved grasp at personal enlightenment is so pathetic that it shouldn't really earn any redemption. It's hard to get into the story of a boy who slowly weasels his way into the heart of the loveliest girl in school (who had a crush on him anyway), all with one eye firmly on the goal of becoming pretty again.

Despite all that, it's also hard to take against Beastly too much. Sure it's empty, made-for-TV quality fluff and more than a bit morally confused, but it's harmless enough. Hudgens is a likeable on-screen presence, Olsen a complete riot, and Pettyfer teases teeny bits of a performance as a genuinely unpleasant baddie that could be the making of him one day, should the right script come along. What really disappoints is that a full decade after Shrek, a film made for a much older audience isn't brave enough to showcase anywhere near the same spark, originality or intelligence.

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