So this isn’t a great re-imagining of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, but Beastly does have mass tweener appeal. It’s a charming bit of fluff, all said, with plenty of cheesy pre-pubescent humor and cutsie romance.
Alex Pettyfer, a hot commodity right now in Hollywood, stars as the “beast” (aka Kyle). Kyle is the coolest (and hottest) guy in his elite private high school. His father is a famous anchorman, and has taught Kyle from a young age that looks are everything (and those that don’t think so are either dumb or ugly). Kyle seems to have it all, well all of it except any real depth of character or kindness. He picks on a bizarre witchy fringe-type, setting her up and then humiliating her at a high school party. This incurs her wrath, and she curses him with the very worst thing he can imagine: ugliness.
Suffering under a curse that makes him as hideous on the outside as he is on the inside, Kyle must find someone who will love him within a year. If he doesn’t he’s doomed to live out his life as an ugly creature. After his change of fortune, his father buys him an isolated home on the outskirts of the city, and after a short time stops visiting all together. He does hire a tutor (played with dry humor by Neil Patrick Harris) for his estranged son, and there’s the family maid. But for the most part, Kyle retreats into a hermetic life with his ugliness. Lucky for him, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) is not only a cute fellow student but she has the distinct advantage of not being the least bit shallow. A fortunate twist of fate gives Kyle the opportunity to barter with Lindy’s father for her, and before long he is seeing the world in a brand new light.
The story is a modern re-telling of the fairy tale, based on a young adult novel by Alex Flinn. It lacks any real depth, and sometimes (might be my advanced years) I just didn’t get the jokes. The film opens with a scene of Kyle giving a sort of campaign speech. He’s running for president of the Green committee, and his rallying cry is “embrace the suck.” This also gets tattooed onto his face when he’s cursed, so it seems like an important story element. But I just don’t get what relevance the motto “embrace the suck” has, even after hearing it in the context of his campaign speech. The romantic elements are cute but extremely convenient. Character development is a non-entity, and thus the movie particularly suffers as Kyle’s character must go through a transformation of the heart as well as the face. We see his change of heart, but don’t buy it.
Sweet love-interest Lindy is played by Vanessa Hudgens, of High School Musical fame. She’s cute but extremely light-weight, and the role proved too much for her acting abilities. Pettyfer did a decent job with what he was given, but Harris really stole the show. His sarcastic blind tutor was the most interesting and best-acted character. Of course, he can’t be blamed for the dialogue. The witch Kendra is played with uncomfortable awkwardness by Mary-Kate Olsen. I’m not sure what rock she’s been hiding under for the last few years, but she needs to crawl back under it. Her acting was worse, if possible, than Hudgens’.
After Kyle’s character goes through the magical transformation and becomes the “beast,” his face, head and body are covered in tats and scars. His hair is gone, and there’s a pretty cool magical tattoo on his arm that shows when his time is up. The problem is he’s still too pretty. The make-up effects do little to turn Pettyfer into a hideous monster. He still runs around with the body/profile of a Greek god…if they had made him 300 pounds on top of the make-up job, that might constitute an actual curse. As is, his “disfigurement” comes across as more of an inconvenience.
Beastly is a cute film, but without much cinematic merit. The story and dialogue were too ridiculous and juvenile to be taken seriously. I know some 13-year-olds that will love this, but the cinephiles will definitely be disappointed.
Beastly was released on March 4th, 2011