By Carissa Eclarin

and Patrice Pirpiris

A modern-day take on “Beauty and the Beast,” Alex Flinn’s 2007 novel “Beastly” comes to the big screen on Friday, exploring the subject of inner beauty.

Teen Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfer) seems to have everything in life: looks, money and popularity. He finally runs into some bad luck when his mean streak strikes a bad chord with a disguised witch, Kendra Hilferty (Mary-Kate Olsen). The witch takes away his good looks and to break the spell, he needs to find someone who will love him despite his appearance.

Kyle finds luck again when he meets Lindy Taylor (Vanessa Hudgens), who can see beyond the scars.

Hudgens tells CBS Films that the modern version goes a bit deeper than the classic tale of “Beauty and the Beast.”

“I hope when people see ‘Beastly’ that they’ll be able to take away that you have to just see the true beauty of things and just see things as they are, not to judge too fast and just embrace everything to the fullest.”

“Beastly” will remind teens to look for inner beauty in others and in themselves, but what is inner beauty? It’s all about knowing what’s inside of you, one life coach says.

“Inner beauty is the light from your soul, the divine, best and highest self that is already within you,” says Kathleen Hassan, a national expert on self-esteem and a motivational speaker and confidence coach for teens. “To find this, you must take the time to find out who you truly are.”

In a world where many teens are strongly reliant on how they look to reflect their beauty and be accepted by their peers, “Beastly” offers viewers valuable life lessons, according to executive producer Roz Weisberg.

“I think it’s relevant to kids today because the first half of the movie is so focused on looks and consumerism and the idea of having an image and position. What happens when all of that is taken away—when you’re stripped of all of the things that you used to superficially define yourself,” you discover who you really are, she says. “And I think that’s relevant to kids today because they’re so saturated with images from magazines and TV of what they need to have.”

Schurz junior Ivette Hernandez says she’s looking forward to watching the movie. “This movie is unique because it teaches teens how to accept everyone,” she says.

Walter Payton junior Jordyn Holman says that it’s refreshing to see movies that have meaning. “There (aren’t) that many movies that are about inner beauty,” Holman says. “They’re mostly about superficial topics. (With) how unique that topic is and how it hasn’t been overused, I think that would be interesting.”

To truly look at someone’s inner beauty, says Hassan, you must ignore the visible characteristics of a person: their looks, clothes, school, popularity, car and type of phone they own. Inner beauty is being kind, compassionate, caring and having a good personality, she adds. These inner characteristics that aren’t immediately visible are what should be important to teens when making friends and having serious relationships.

“A bad personality makes a person seem like a bad person to me, so it does matter,” says Kathleen Meersman, a sophomore at Taft. Inner beauty isn’t something someone can instantly judge about you, it is something that another person slowly learns about you, like how Lindy realizes what a beautiful person Kyle is on the inside in “Beastly.”

“Take time to see beyond looks,” Hassan says. “I hope teens start thinking about inner beauty and stop judging other people and start trying to find other people’s inner beauty.”

This romantic movie has a great lesson, and you will want to see it. Check it out in theaters on March 4, and don’t forget the basic message: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free every other Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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