A Fitting Title
Hitting theaters just one week before Red Riding Hood, Beastly is the beginning of the new trend in Hollywood: darker, more “adult versions” of classic fairy tales and fables. That’s what we’ve been told, at least, but judging from this film and the trailers I’ve seen for Red Riding Hood, it looks like “teenage versions” may be more appropriate. What jumps out most about Beastly is how unabashedly it aims its sights toward the Twilight set. That, and its ugly exterior.
This adaptation of the “tale as old as time” focuses on Kyle, a self-absorbed high school student who believes that how popular you are is directly proportional to how good-looking you are. His vanity draws the irk of Kendra, a co-ed with a penchant for witchcraft, who casts a spell on him taking away his good looks. He has one year to either get someone to love him, or he will forever be cursed.
Banished by his equally vain father to a home outside the city where no one will be able to see him, Kyle is joined only by his maid and a blind tutor who never seems to tutor him. When a former classmate of Kyle’s life is threatened, he works a deal that makes her something of a prisoner in his house. Their relationship is strained at the beginning, but eventually she begins to see that he’s not a bad guy and, well, you can take it from here.
Given that the moral of the “Beauty of the Beast” tale is to not judge something by its appearance, is it wrong for me to criticize Beastly as an ugly movie? The acting is ugly, the visuals are ugly and the dialogue is audibly ugly. Ironically, one of the least ugly things of the movie is the supposed “beast.” Didn’t anyone tell the makeup department that chicks dig scars and tattoos?
A large part of the movie’s ugliness comes from its forced screenplay. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scene in which Kyle rescues his beauty from a violent confrontation between her drug-addict father and his dealers. I suppose something had to be done to get the girl into his care, but this scene is so awkwardly written, filmed, and acted that despite being a serious scene, it just came across as goofy and laughable. Other plot points are forced as well, such as Kyle’s unnecessary daddy issues. I suppose this was the movie’s way of showing that there was more to Kyle than just vanity, but I think we would have got that as the movie progressed naturally.
The acting is also ugly. Alex Pettyfer does a decent enough job as the vain Kyle, but when it came to being the awkward boy in love, his performance became a little too awkward and drew plenty of unintended laughs. Vanessa Hudgens does a decent enough job as Lindy, this version’s Belle, but nothing about her performance stands out. In every movie she’s done, she seems to deliver the same plain performance. As for Mary-Kate Olson as the witch Kendra, well, the hair and makeup department didn’t do her performance any favors.
Not all of the actors are wasted, however, as the presence of Neil Patrick Harris as Kyle’s tutor Will is actually what keeps this movie from being completely horrible. Harris gets a big laugh just about every time he opens his mouth in this movie and, in his case, the laughs are intentional. It’s a great supporting presence that deserves a better movie.
The “Beauty and the Beast” tale also deserves a better movie. So do “Snow White,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Hansel and Gretel,” so let’s hope that Beastly turns out to be the exception, rather than the rule.
Beastly is rated PG-13 for “language including crude comments, brief violence and some thematic material.” This is a very light PG-13 movie as the filmmakers obviously don’t want to keep out its target (read: younger) audience.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Beastly.