Of all the Disney movies, Beauty and the Beast is one of the Nawrot favorites. My husband and I bought the laser disc (yes I know I'm dating myself, but no snarky comments allowed) before we ever had kids. The animation, in my opinion, is nearly unparallelled for its time. I was intrigued, therefore, when I heard about this modern-day YA adaptation, which will be released as a motion picture this summer.
The story starts out cleverly with on online chat room conversation between a group of cursed creatures (a frog, a mermaid turned silent maiden, a werewolf, and a beast) and a mediator, attempting to deal with their afflictions. The beast begins to reveal his sordid tale. He once was a beautiful, popular freshman boy named Kyle. He had his pick of all the hot girls. He scorned or ignored those less beautiful than he, until one day he picked on the wrong overweight goth chick. She cursed him, turning him into a hairy beast, and giving him two years to fall in love and in turn be loved, otherwise he will live out the rest of his days as a hideous creature. This is the story you well know.
Kyle's father, a superficial news anchor, can't stand to look at his ruined son. He banishes him to a large brownstone (the "castle") with a maid and a blind tutor. And Kyle begins his transformation from an egocentric ass to one worthy of love. He reads classic literature, he grows roses. The challenge is to find someone who can see the beauty within. Through a series of events, he imprisons a girl in his brownstone and begins to slowly earn her trust. He realizes that while she is not beautiful, he loves her, so much that he must set her free, and pray that she comes back to him, in time to break the curse.
The plot itself is very predictable. It would be sacrilege to mess with the general elements of the story, wouldn't it? That still doesn't make the journey any less enjoyable, in fact it was darned close to a one-sitting read. This is one of those books that can take the edge off of a reading slump or a dreary war novel. It is always nice to see a narcissist change his ways.
One word of caution for the early teen reader. Kyle's lifestyle pre-beast is one that includes alcohol-swilling and manipulating hot girls to get sex. There is also some language. I sorta wish I would have known this before my 12-year-old read it, but there you go - I learned my lesson. On the bright side, the overall message is a positive one (bad behavior might just cause a witch to curse you!).
I have some initial doubts about the movie. Based on the trailer, the casting seems questionable. The overweight, goth girl is played by one of the Olsen twins (????) and the not-so-beautiful girl that saves Kyle from a life of beastliness is played by Vanessa Hudgens (????). Also, when cursed, Kyle does not get all hairy with claws and teeth. Instead, he becomes scarred and tattooed. I sense some marketing skulduggery at work here. On a positive note, the blind tutor is played by Neil Patrick Harris. We heart him.
3.5 out of 5 stars