“Beastly” updates a classic romance

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By Kristen Cloyed, Contributor

Often cliché, but at times extremely witty, “Beastly” is a modern take on a tale as old as time, expertly adapted by writer and director Daniel Barnz (“Phoebe in Wonderland”) from the novel by Alex Flynn.

Alex Pettyfer plays the handsome, arrogant Kyle, whose motto is “people like people who look good.” When he angers the class witch, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), Kyle gets a hideous makeover. Kendra casts a spell that turns him into a beast and gives him a year to find someone to love him despite his gnarly exterior.

Upon seeing his new look, Kyle’s absent TV anchor father (Peter Krause) banishes him to a mansion in the suburbs outside of New York City. The movie follows Kyle’s struggle to accept his new appearance, giving the audience a chance to see the story from the beast’s perspective.

Kyle falls hard for the smart and struggling Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) after he takes her into his home to protect her. He tries and fails to sweep her off her feet time and time again. Finally, with the help of his housekeeper (Lisa Gay Hamilton), Kyle learns to think of Lindy before himself.

“Beastly” is well cast for a teenage romance.  Hudgens gives her most believable performance yet and Pettyfer perfectly represents Kyle in all his vainglory. Neil Patrick Harris plays Will, Kyle’s blind tutor, who’s as clever with his advice as he is with his hilarious remarks. Olsen’s portrayal of Kendra is mesmerizing as she struts around radiating confidence despite constant berating from other students for her gritty appearance.

Pettyfer’s beastly makeover is incredible. In an interview on About.com, Pettyfer explained that it took the make-up artists up to six hours every day to apply the 67 pieces that completed Kyle’s gruesome getup. Seven pieces were applied to his head and the other 60 tattoos and scars were applied to the rest of his body. The results are eye-catching and dynamic.

Some parts of the fantasy tale are unrealistic. Kyle may be ugly, but with his father’s money, he has the whole world at his fingertips. At one point, in an attempt to flatter Lindy, Kyle builds her a greenhouse. The gesture is sweet, but barely believable.

While it may be hard to get past the sap factor, “Beastly” is a solid remake of a timeless Disney treasure. Well cast and witty, this fantasy romance is sure to have audiences buzzing.

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