Somewhere inside "Beastly" is a gorgeous, intelligent film, straining to get out of a ridiculous subplot and dopey set-up.
The retelling of the classic "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale could have been smart. It certainly has its moments, but the story jerks along in an ugly, contrived, illogical fashion to reach those moments of genuine beauty.
It starts out with a bang. Kyle (Alex Pettyfer, also starring next door in "I Am Number Four") is popular, incredibly handsome and narcissistic. He knows he gets by with being arrogant and mean because he is so good-looking. He doesn't even have to pretend he has a platform when he runs for the school government. He simply says the other students should vote for him because he's rich and handsome. For those who are not good-looking, he suggests they "embrace the suck."
He publicly insults Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), a witch who curses him by replacing his good looks with scars, tattoos and veins, giving him one year to find someone who will love for him for who is inside. After one year, if he doesn't find true love, he will stay forever "beastly."
Wouldn't you think that if someone completely transformed someone's looks that it would create headlines all over the globe? "Magic is real!" we'd all read, and our lives would change forever. But, no, not here. Kyle's dad, upon discovering that no surgery can help his son (I never bought this, incidentally), puts him up in a posh apartment with a live-in maid (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris).
He also ends up sharing the apartment with the beautiful and kind Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens, "High School Musical") under completely preposterous circumstances. She, of course, does not know his real identity. She likes him well enough, but will Lindy really fall in love with him?
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Director Daniel Barnz, who also wrote and helmed the equally unusual "Phoebe in Wonderland," has a real eye for visuals. He knows how to light his leads - Hudgens simply illuminates the screen at times - and he cleverly maintains the theme of roses, part of the ages-old tale, in street scenes, jewelry and settings.
I wish he had thought of a different way for Kyle to be transformed and for he and Lindy to be hiding out together. If he had, the story would have been as smart as it is good-looking.