Beastly (2011) CBS Films
1 hr. 35 mins.
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Peter Krause
Directed by: Daniel Barnz
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Critic’s Rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
The classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast is updated for the tweener masses in the lame youth-oriented sci-fi romancer Beastly. Writer-director Daniel Barnz oversees a drab and cheesy movie version to the revered literary fable by instilling a Gossip Girl vibe to the movie’s contemporary shadings. Sadly, Beastly is nothing more than a flimsy fantasy spouting the obvious sentiment about how beauty is only skin deep. There is nothing else deep about Barnz’s nonsensical narrative unless you’re a giddy preteen girl specializing in one-dimensional conceited hunks and a transparent moral lesson that a toddler would shrug off with indifference. As for the other demographic element Beastly will be a silly-minded melodrama in the futile attempt of capturing the fluttering hearts of Twilight diehard leftovers.
Alex Pettyfer (“I Am Number Four”) stars as an egotistical high school stud muffin named Kyle whose exceptional physical attributes would melt the hearts of giddy gals everywhere. We get how much of a vain Adonis that Kyle is when the movie reinforces his boxer briefs and six pack abs in glorious form-evidently Shirtless Wonders Taylor Lautner and Matthew McConaughey should watch their backs, huh? The confident Kyle is guaranteed eye candy for the chicks and makes no bones about his flawless physique.
However, the insufferable pretty boy gets his comeuppance by a beleaguered witch Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) who has been a whipping post of the self-absorbed Kyle. Fittingly, Kendra casts an unkind spell on the self-appointed looker at a school dance thus afflicting him with a haggard appearance complete with distracting tattoos, gaudy scars, weird piercings and a lopsided face. Unfortunately for the pompous Kyle there’s a stipulation that he must adhere to in order to retrieve his good looks again…he needs for a girl to fall in love with him despite his hideous appearance. If Kyle fails then he is relegated to his disfigurement forever.
Enter Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens from “High School Musical” fame). Lindy is quite gorgeous but nevertheless dorky and nice. While Kyle had run for the Green Committee presidency Lindy is out to seek the position of Green Committee treasurer. Remarkably, Lindy takes a shine to the cretin-looking Kyle. Sure, he’s obnoxious with a toxic look dipped in repulsiveness. Still, Lindy is open-minded enough to realize that there must be more to the maligned Kyle inside that intrigues her beyond his frightening physicality.
Will the judgmental jerk Kyle reconsider his stance on being a pretty package while looking down on those that do not have the privileged attractiveness based on his current creepy look? Can the good-natured yet delicious-looking Lindy bring the crass Kyle down to earth? Will Kyle get his redemption and realize how thoughtless he’s been to his average-looking targets?
Anyone-particularly the film’s core audience in the adoring teenyboppers-will dismiss Beastly as a thinly teen-targeted tale with a simplistic message of being comfortable in one’s skin. The problem isn’t the message of the movie per se as much as the distorted pretentiousness of the message. Barnz awkwardly bangs home the hostility of a blonde-haired blowhard who treasures his own vanity. But we’re never quite convinced about Kyle’s downfall based on the so-called “body blemish” that becomes him in the smothering tattoos and piercings. Kyle does not appear as wildly freakish as the movie intended him to be. In fact, he is no more distinguishable than a punk rocker attending an underground concert. What’s so outrageous about Kyle’s look anyway? If anything Beastly may spark imitators fascinated by the crazy imagery.
The same point is taken with Hudgens’s Lindy. If the film wanted to make a valid point about Kyle’s redemption in judging folks for their lack of looks then why even bother casting a delicious-looking Hudgens as his motive to turn the other cheek? Maybe if Kyle’s love interest was an average-looking girl without Hudgens’s knockout appearance then the concept would have been more plausible in the lesson being taught? But no…the lead cad can’t be too unappealing and the leading lass cannot be a Plain Jane (only her goody two shoes outlook is suppose to be substituted as “nerdy”).
Overall, the symmetry of Beastly never gels accordingly. Pettyfer is hopelessly stiff as the Beautiful Boy Wonder turned Humble Horror Show. Hudgens is basically a pretty face for hire with a backstory of shame and sorrow that conveniently has her sharing a place with Kyle in his Brooklyn penthouse. Daffy-minded dialogue, syrupy direction, uninspired sentimentality, wooden performances, cheesy-inducing special effects-all are rolled up in a banal ball of ridiculousness.
The supporting characters grate on the nerves. Peter Krause is on hand as Kyle’s shallow anchorman father. Lisa Gay Hamilton plays an opinionated Jamaican maid. Only the inclusion of Neil Patrick Harris (from TV’s “How I Met Your Mother”) as a wisecracking blind tutor adds some needed levity to the otherwise mawkish material that exists.
Beastly is an apt name for a one-note trivial teen sci-fi movie that is a hazardous horror showcase on many various levels of ineptitude.