I didn’t have high expectations in advance of seeing the movie Beastly, but I gave it my best and went in with as open a mind as I could. It actually surprised me. It was fairly well done, although certainly there were parts of it that were a little hard to buy, even for a fairy tale. Even apart from the evil witch (played by Mary Kate Olson) casting a spell on our Beast, played by Alex Pettyfer, it was kind of a stretch to buy that in any high school, anywhere in the known universe, someone wouldn’t have looked askance at Olson wandering around in a super-hip witch costume. Yet, wander around the high school, she did. No one seemed alarmed by her presence, and if we are to buy that she was this powerful, it was surprising how much disdain she was greeted with. Of course, the real world has never seen such a neat, acne-free, uber fashionable pack of teenagers. It seemed that every kid in this fictional high school was perfect, thin, glamorous and rich. Everyone was dressed like they just stepped out of the pages of Vogue. Have teenagers anywhere ever been that cool and that hip? I tried to tell myself it was only a movie, and a fairy tale at that, but still, as “Cinderella” characters go, Hudgens, as Lindy, was pretty darned trendy.
But overall, the story, if you can put aside a large portion of your logic, is a pretty good fairy tale story. I had a lot of trouble buying that Pettyfer’s character really felt anything for others, beyond what they felt for him and beyond what that could do for him. Clear till the end, I had a problem with that. I also felt like it was a bit of a stretch if we buy that Hudgens’ character truly loved the “Beast” that she could almost instantly accept him as anything other than the “Beast” she fell in love with.
I liked Neil Patrick Harris’ portrayal of the blind tutor. He was compassionate without being heavy-handed and brought a lot to the part. Lisa Gay Hamilton, as the live-in maid, was, on the other hand, unbelievably forgiving. In earlier scenes, before his beastly transformation, Kyle (Pettyfer) showed her nothing but heartless contempt and discrimination. Yet, once he’s been transformed into a beast, as ugly outside as in, she has nothing but compassion for him. Yeah, right. I don’t care what his dad (limply played by Peter Krause) paid her, I think she’d have at least been rolling her eyes and smirking behind his back. Instead, she just wimped out instantly and claimed she saw him for the “man he really was.” Uh, he really was a jerk. Deep down, through and through, at least until he “saw the light.”
Hudgens as Lindy, was a little too sweet and a lot too understanding. She didn’t even flinch when she first saw Pettyfer’s beast, and instantly liked him. I’d have accepted her learning to overlook him better than this “oh I’ve seen worse…” reaction. Even if she did come from a rough neighborhood, I thought that was a bit of a stretch. I had trouble buying that she was quite this good. I also had some trouble buying that someone with the kind of over-the-top wealth Pettyfer’s character took for granted would ever even cross paths with the daughter of a disgraced druggie who clearly lived in a lower class walk-up apartment. Scholarship to fancy school or not, those class lines simply don’t get crossed that easily. These are the unrealistic and unlikely things that would set the film apart as a fairy tale, even without Olson’s heavy-handed witchcraft.
Overall, the story was well told, and it was an amusing romp. I truly liked the film’s interpretation that ugliness, scars, and tattoos all go hand in hand and all equal ugliness. I hope that lesson isn’t lost on today’s teens. Let’s talk some teens out of getting tattoos!