Review in a Hurry: What if they adapted Beauty and the Beast and forgot to make the beast ugly? That's the monstrous flaw in this leaden, Gossip Girl-ized version of the fairy tale, starring Alex Pettyfer as the tatted-up "beast" who falls for bland High School Musical beauty Vanessa Hudgens.
The Bigger Picture: Beastly's opening images—half-naked supermodels on advertising billboards—promise a sharp social commentary about our youth/beauty-obsessed culture. But instead, this umpteenth take on the "tale as old as time" lacks the courage to be anything more than another shallow teen romance.
Pettyfer plays 17-year-old Kyle, a privileged and popular brat who feels empowered by his handsome good looks. But then he picks on the wrong witchy classmate, raccoon-eyed Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen a dead goth ringer for Madonna in her "Frozen" video).
Kendra transforms him into someone "as unattractive on the outside as he is on the inside." Unfortunately, that just means giving Kyle a shaved head plus a few tatts and scars. He's still tall, trim, and tight with cut abs—no longer a Hollister model but now a Gaga dancer. The horror!
Humiliated, Kyle holes up in a cushy apartment, doesn't receive text messages, and even deletes his online profile. How sad. To reverse the curse, he has a year to find someone who will love him. Enter classmate Lindy (Hudgens), who—in a clunky bit of plotting—moves in with Kyle because of her addict dad's crime.
When he first reveals his "hideous" face to her, Lindy shrugs and says, "I've seen worse," which minimizes the character's struggle. He woos her by building a greenhouse, reading a fave story, and writing her a letter. What, no long walks on the beach? Plus, his climactic "sacrifice" proves ridiculous.
Hudgens is a pretty blank, and Pettyfer fails to exude deep yearning or soulfulness beneath his unique surface (think sensitive Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands). With scant chemistry between the actors, their relationship feels further forced, and all the slo-mo shots and puling pop songs on the soundtrack can't fill in those emotional gaps.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Always reliable Neil Patrick Harris provides welcome levity as Kyle's blind tutor, though he mostly hangs out making pithy quips instead of doing any actual teaching.