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Movie Review: Beastly Is Ghastly

Alex Pettyfer as a punky, hunky Harry Potter of a Beast.

The traditional French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, first published in the mid-seventeenth century, goes like this: An evil fairy turns a vain young man into a hideous monster; the key to regaining his human form and good looks is true love. But how does he find that when he looks like a monster? By duping, imprisoning, and seducing a woman with luxury and riches — only the pure, young beauty the Beast finds has no interest in such things. Love eventually triumphs in this charming morality tale, first filmed, exquisitely, by Jean Cocteau in 1946. The story has been updated numerous times since, including as a Disney musical. Now we have the version for Twi-Hards, written and directed by Daniel Barnz. And it is ghastly.

Barnz has set his update in a Gossip Girl–style Manhattan prep school and not only has he sucked all charm from the story, he has made it even more implausible. Here's how:

There's no such thing as ugly in Hollywood, and no one can resist a six-pack: To cast the high-school witch who lays the curse on superficial jock Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), the producers cast 90-pound fashion label kingpin and model Mary Kate Olsen. Kyle calls her a “self-mutilated, tatted Frankenskank,” but Olsen's character is just fashion-forward — a goth goddess dressed as if by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Kyle’s sincere love interest, High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens — supposedly a nerdy, environmentalist do-gooder who prefers substance over style (we know this because one of her first lines is, “I’m substance over style”) — falls for super-buff Kyle at his jerkiest, pre-Beast.

The Beast is actually hotter than he was before: Kyle begins the film as a cretinous, pampered prep who sports the sort of tailored suits that only tools wear to high school. He’s essentially a Winklevoss dressed like a junior-varsity Patrick Bateman. His transfiguration into the Beast is supposed to be terrifying, but it’s more like a downtown makeover: The witch basically scars him, shaves his head, applies some cool tattoos (a tree, some tribal markings), and adds a hip Harry Potter–ish silver slash down his forehead. And thanks to the tats, Kyle has even more reasons to rip off his shirt and show off that ripped bod. In fact, he's not a monster at all: He's the alternative dude Ke$ha might molest in a music video.

The story is dumbed down to the point of drooling: Barnz's script is so egregiously, insultingly telegraphed, the individual lines so sloppy and repetitive, he might as well have spray-painted them on billboards from a speeding car. The worst lines, you ask? There are so many to choose from! But here's a taste:

- “Should you vote for the rich, popular, good-looking guy with a famous news anchor dad? Hell, yeah!”
- “People like people who look good.”
- “Wow, looks are important to you.”
- “Anything bangable.” [Kyle’s online personals description of what he’s looking for.]
- “Que sera sera: That’s Spanish for ‘Sucks to be an ugly cow.’”

You know things are bad when even Neil Patrick Harris is terrible: And, really, that says it all.

Photo: Courtesy of CBS Films