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Vanessa Hudgens Stars In Aptly Named "Beastly"

Christina Rath |
March 4, 2011 | 12:53 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Courtesy of CBS Films
Courtesy of CBS Films
Once upon a time, director Daniel Barnz said, “I loved the idea of telling this story, the Beauty and the Beast story in high school, because where else are we more obsessed with looks than in high school?” 

Coming off a successful run at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival with his film "Phoebe in Wonderland," Barnz signed on to direct the film he wrote based upon the novel, "Beastly," by Alex Flinn.

High school student Kyle (Alex Pettyfer of "I am Number Four") messes with the wrong girl, Kendra, (Mary-Kate Olsen) who puts a curse on him after he asks her to a school dance as a joke.  The shallow and cruel Kyle, who is admired for his looks by his high school class, is transformed into an ugly hairless tattooed and disfigured character who has a year to make someone fall in love with him.

Kyle’s TV personality dad, equally concerned with looks, buys a secluded townhouse for Kyle where he moves in with his maid and blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris).  In a bit of a stretch in the script, Kyle works out a deal with a former classmate’s father who wants his daughter protected from the thugs who are after him for drug money.

The classmate, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), reluctantly goes to Kyle’s house where she stays for the first few weeks sulking in her attic room without meeting him face to face.  When they finally do meet, she is unperturbed by his deformed looks and slowly begins to befriend the boy who introduces himself as Hunter. 

Hudgens describes her character as “the kind of girl who think’s it’s easier to go through life under the radar, to just kind of blend in because it’s easier.”  This type of character, the quiet but pretty outsider is reminiscent of Hudgens' character in the High School Musical series. 

One scene in particular is strikingly familiar, Hudgens with a flower in her hair at a rooftop garden—just like when she was on her high school’s rooftop garden dancing around with ex boyfriend Zac Efron in High School Musical.

Hudgens seemed to hint at what may have gone wrong with Efron when she spoke about how only her family is able to keep her grounded:

“I think it’s just about keeping people who are close to me near and people who love themselves and who are true to themselves, who have their own hobbies, and their world doesn’t revolve around Hollywood.”

Alex Pettyfor added in a more light hearted response, “What keeps me grounded? In & Out Burger. It keeps me very heavy to the ground, especially that Double Double.”

The film stays pretty true to the Beauty and the Beast story with Kyle given one year to entice someone to love him—time is kept by a tattoo of a tree which changes seasons on his forearm as opposed to the single dying rose in the Disney tale.

Day by day, too afraid to tell Lindy how he feels about her, Kyle writes her letter after letter which he eventually gives to her.

Hudgens has a special connection to the idea of love letters as she divulged that her parents actually started out as pen pals, “My mom was in the Philippines, and my father was in the States and they wrote to each other, and he went out to meet her and they were wed not too long after.”

The idea of a true and genuine love story such as that really does not come across in "Beastly." Much of the acting is poor, with moviegoers laughing at the characters and situations on screen, but not in the intended way. Although the movie is targeted toward a high school audience, it really lacks what fairy tale adaptation "Ever After" or even the comedic "A Cinderella Story" bring to the screen.

Mary-Kate Olsen and Neil Patrick Harris do their best to keep audiences interested, but despite the attempts to draw in audiences by casting Vanessa Hudgens or coating otherwise handsome Alex Pettyfor in an ugly disguise, the whole concept comes across as trying too hard.  The generation who grew up on Disney’s animated "Beauty and the Beast" will most likely not be jumping at the bit to trade in their childhood favorites like Chip and Mrs. Potts for this modern day adaptation. 

Reach Christina Rath here and follow her on Twitter.

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