First off I have to say that I viewed this film under protest as my niece was visiting and for god knows what reason, wanted to check this stinker out.
Now that that's out of the way, let me critique this unfortunate attempt at updating the classic Beauty And The Beast tale.
Early warning signs: This film was produced under the aegis of CBS Entertainment - which, let me tell ya, ain't HBO. Think more of a Saturday afternoon Disney channel effort and you wouldn't be far off. A second hint that you may be in for a distasteful experience is that this was written and directed by the same guy - it's seldom that this formula works and this film could be the poster child for "Don't go there".
It has been said that the acting in this film is atrocious, but I disagree - you could have Meryl Streep uttering this lines and even she would seem almost cartoonish - which is an idea - why didn't they dispense with the acting all together and do this as Japanese style Anime? I mean, like really, (quoting from the film), the two main actors Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens are earnest enough, but their efforts are sunk by banal material. Hudgens in particular, as the girl who falls for "the beast" seems to at least have some screen presence (or maybe I'm just smitten by those cheekbones).
In supporting roles you have Lisa Gay Hamilton as the perky housekeeper who, in spite of never being shown the slightest bit of humanity by the beast, tries to school the lad by spinning homespun homilies in an atrocious Caribbean accent. And speaking of schooling - when Alex is turned into the beast, his dear old dad squirrels him away and then hires a blind tutor to school him. This is probably the best part of the film (and the bar has been set really, really low). Neil Patrick Harris (what's with all these actors with 3 names anyway - 2 names was enough for John Wayne, ya woosies!), has all the funny lines and he delivers them with panache.
I could go on and on about what is wrong with this film - from the laughable "deformity" of the beast (that looks like children's face painting on drugs), to the heavy handedness of the script (let's make this really, really obvious in case there's a 6 year old in the audience with a learning disability), but in truth, the long and short of this film is that it is so very formulaic and over the top. The film even does a little wink wink in an attempt to show how slick it is by mentioning several times that the story isn't original. Really, ya think?
Finally, the film ends with everything tied into a nice bow - boy gets girl, finds redemption, etc. etc. - witch (who cast the spell making beasty boy beasty) grants him his wish to give sight back to his tutor (not kidding, really), and then in yet another attempt to say something meaningful, has the witch set her sights on dear old dad - you know, he who instilled the beastly attitudes in his son in the first place. Yikes!