Andy Bockelman: ‘Beastly’ has moments of beauty, but story’s unattractive | CraigDailyPress.com

Andy Bockelman: ‘Beastly’ has moments of beauty, but story’s unattractive

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

Among the many invaluable life lessons in "Beastly" is the axiom that you should treat others the way you'd want to be treated.

Considering most of us learned The Golden Rule in kindergarten, that should give you an idea of just how well-developed the moral tone is in this teen romantic fantasy.

High school student Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfer) has the world at his feet. He's rich, strikingly handsome and the epitome of popularity at his posh New York academy.

He's also a completely repellent human being who cares about nothing and no one except himself, threatened by anyone who sees him for what he truly is.

When he crosses paths with the school oddball, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), Kyle figures that breaking down her spirit will be effortless, not to mention a great boost to his social status.

But, Kendra has something up her sleeve.

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Revealing herself to be a witch, she curses Kyle to a life where he's as ugly on the surface as he is on the inside. However, she offers him a deal — if, within a year, he can find someone to tell him they love him despite his new revolting appearance, he'll return to normal.

Living in a miserable seclusion for months, Kyle can't even manage to look in the mirror, let alone love himself, as his father (Peter Krause) slowly walks out of his life, while the people he thought to be his friends are glad to be free of his nasty influence.

But, when he comes into contact with a caring, generous fellow student (Vanessa Hudgens), he retains his hope that he can beat the spell to which he's fallen prey.

With a multitude of scars, lesions and other disfiguring features covering his body, Pettyfer is beyond recognition, with the actor looking more like his evil pursuers from "I Am Number Four," sporting a bald head and tattoos all over his frame.

He certainly gets the conceited portion of Kyle's personality right, though when it comes to letting his guard down, he can't get beyond the simple look of anguish of someone who's facing hardships for the first time an otherwise easy and enjoyable life.

"High School Musical" actress Hudgens doesn't bring the greatest anchor to the story as the girl who captures his hardened heart, but she is sweet all the same as Lindy, an altruistic type who comes from the wrong side of the tracks and has all but given up her own life, looking after her drug addict dad (Roc LaFortune). Luckily for Kyle, she had a slight crush on him before his downfall, and even better, once he reveals his new face, her initial reaction is "I've seen worse."

Neil Patrick Harris provides most of the movie's humor as Will, Kyle's sightless tutor and newfound parental figure, along with Lisa Gay Hamilton as the family's Jamaican maid, though the biggest laughs come from Olsen, who's unintentionally hilarious as soft-spoken Goth girl Kendra, apparently taking acting lessons, as well as a few outfits, from Elvira.

But, at least the young sorceress has a sense of style, adding a tree tattoo to Kyle's forearm that counts down the days to his deadline, with the blooming of silver flowers indicating that time is up.

No matter how many versions of "Beauty and the Beast" you've seen or read, the element of magic is crucial, with the animated Disney rendition and Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bête" leading the pack.

Aside from Kyle's primary metamorphosis and his season-shifting body art, there's little enchantment to be seen here, and even his life-changing makeover is presented as something that just happens all of a sudden.

Writer-director Daniel Barnz's last movie, the delightfully offbeat "Phoebe in Wonderland," contained a creative foray between reality and fantasy, but here there's not much separating the whimsical and grotesque from the mundane.

The title of Alex Flinn's original novel doesn't make much sense here either, since without fur, fangs or claws, Kyle looks more like an accident-prone biker than the usual animalistic monster, with the exception of eyes that look slightly feline.

You'd think it wouldn't be so hard to find a girl in Manhattan who was into that kind of thing …

But, this modern retelling of the fairy tale isn't without its own ingenuity, most notably showing the story from the Beast's point of view rather than the Beauty's, explaining why the young antihero is so badly in need of an attitude adjustment, with dear old dad Krause pounding it into his son's head that a person's physical appearance is all that matters.

Unfortunately, the film's promising first half soon dissolves from a meaningful, contemporary parable into something more like "One Tree Hill," with an especially halfhearted conclusion.

While it's not without its charms, "Beastly" is best suited to the teens and tweens for whom it's intended. Having learned that there are worse things than being temporarily ugly and having your own New York townhouse, the older crowds will hardly be able to take it seriously.

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‘Beastly’

2 out of 4 stars

95 minutes

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen and Neil Patrick Harris.

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