Beastly (12A) **

Alex Pettyfer stars as Kyle Kingsbury, a modern-day Beast
Alex Pettyfer stars as Kyle Kingsbury, a modern-day Beast
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ALTHOUGH it doesn’t live down to the lowly promise of its title, Daniel Barnz’s modern-day reworking of Beauty And The Beast undermines its central message about substance over style by sacrificing characterisation for glossy visuals.

Based on the book by Alex Flinn, Beastly tries to convince its target teen audience that looks may seem important when it comes to fitting in at school but the true value of a person is tenderness, intelligence and sensitivity.

Barnz’s film imparts this knowledge with a script lacking any of those noble qualities, delivered by a good-looking, perfectly groomed cast.

Seventeen-year-old Kyle Kingsbury (Alex Pettyfer) is the golden boy of high school: handsome and athletic, he exploits his looks to get what and who he wants, regardless of the devastation he leaves in his wake.

He follows the lead of his father Rob (Peter Krause), a TV news anchorman, who professes, ‘People like people who look good – anyone who says otherwise is either dumb or ugly.’

Kyle foolishly ignores whispers about classmate Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) being a witch and humiliates her in public.

She retaliates by robbing Kyle of his chiselled cheekbones, cursing him to look ‘as aggressively unattractive outside as you are inside’ unless he can find true love in the next 12 months.

Consigned to an apartment with blind tutor Will (Neil Patrick Harris) and Jamaican housemaid Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton), who is separated from her children by the red tape of the US immigration system, Kyle gives up on life.

Then fate throws pretty classmate Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) into his path and her innocence and sweetness opens Kyle’s eyes to the mistakes of the past.

Beastly resets the familiar story to present-day New York but lacks the emotional punch in the closing frames when Kyle gets the girl and his perfectly tousled blonde locks back.

Pettyfer is bland while Hudgens fails to convince us that her impossibly caring heroine would genuinely gush, ‘What happened to romance: sappy, soppy longhand love letters?’