Thursday, Mar 3 2011
BEASTLY A modernized riff on Beauty and the Beast that's as subtle as its protagonist's freaky facial blemishes, Beastly offers up an Apple-store-shiny high school crammed with catty cretins, blossoming love in a luxuriant rooftop greenhouse, and a wise, racism-enduring Jamaican maid (Lisa Gay Hamilton) as its de facto Mrs. Potts. Only the sardonic reactions of Neil Patrick Harris's blind tutor (particularly his gleeful promotion of the greeting "Wassup!") temporarily deflates the suffocating schmaltz of Daniel Barnz's teen romance, in which cocky, looks-are-everything Ken-doll Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is stricken with a bald, scarred, and tattooed exterior by a goth-fashionista witch (Mary-Kate Olsen). To reverse the curse, Kyle must find true love with alterna-cutie-pie Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens). The means by which Lindy eventually finds herself in Kyle's custody — a mishmash of tossed-off plot contrivances involving the duo's disappointing daddies—is pitifully contrived, albeit no clumsier than Barnz's smeary-vision evocation of Kyle's monstrous mutation or the soundtrack's incessant on-the-nose ballads. Chemistry between the dully brooding Pettyfer and blandly adorable Hudgens is nonexistent, a void highlighted by a cringe-worthy meet-cute involving the couple fabricating translations for a Korean soap opera — a scene that doubles as an apt metaphor for this tin-eared, corny attempt at fairy-tale interpretation. (Nick Schager) (Opens Friday, Citywide)

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