PLOT: Kyle is a popular student who has everything he wants. Told by his father repeatedly that looks are everything, he strives to be his best in every way, shape, or form. Yet he treats those “beneath him” with contempt and disgust. When he pranks a local school witch, she turns the tables and curses the one thing he prides himself on… his looks. If he cannot find somebody to love him for him, he will forever be scarred. Romantic, eh?
REVIEW: BEASTLY is a mildly better film than the first installment of THE TWILIGHT SAGA. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is a good one. What makes it more palatable is the fact that it is purely a love story. It avoids adding useless villains for a false sense of scary mixed with faux suspense. It merely presents a modern day version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. A young, horrendously self centered man named Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is turned ugly by a witch named Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen). He must then find someone who will offer her love to his monstrous new self. Will true love reign supreme?
While TWILIGHT creates a big, bad world of vampires and werewolves, Beastly keeps thing a little more straight-forward. In fact, this idea of a man learning to love what is on the inside is painfully obvious. Writer-director Daniel Barnz paints such a very ugly portrait of Kyle when he is popular and good looking that it would be hard to imagine anybody being this shallow and moronic. Early on when Kyle is campaigning for class presidency, he keeps calling everybody but himself ugly. He tells a willing crowd – including several classmates holding up a stick with his attractive mug on it – the pretty people can get the job done. Sure there have been jerks in high school flicks before, but this guy takes the cake.
Ultimately when he peeves off the girl from “Full House”, a goth witch, she curses him with scars, blisters and ickiness destroying his once handsome features. Yet Pettyfer’s performance rarely transcends the ass he once was. Even when he begins to learn his lesson, there is very little here to convince you that he has truly changed. Sure he does nice things, but his portrayal of the doomed high school kid is just as shallow as the message the film presents. Basically, if you look past the ugliness on the outside, you’ll find beauty of the inside.
As far as the look and style of the film, you certainly can’t complain. There are pretty shots of the leading characters and a hip indie pop tune playing in nearly every other scene. Both Pettyfer and the lovely Vanessa Hudgens as the romantic duo are photographed incredibly well, making it all the more dreamy. This is a glossy and slick production that wears its style on its sleeve, even when it is pretending to be deeper than it really is. At one point when Hudgens’ character points out that she prefers substance over style, one can only wonder what she would have thought of BEASTLY.
While this teen dream romance is empty but pretty, it certainly offers a couple of charming characters thanks to Neil Patrick Harris and Lisa Gay Hamilton. Harris plays a blind tutor hired by Kyle’s super rich, yet uncaring father (a wasted Peter Krause). Hamilton plays the family maid who is sent to live with the disfigured and forgotten Kyle. Both of these talented actors offer up a little bit of humor and charm. In fact, the only reason you can stick by this Beastly character is partly because of how these two never give up on the young man.
And then there is Vanessa Hudgens. While she is not necessarily the strongest actress out there, she gives a few shining moments to the romance. It is not hard to see why somebody would fall in love with her, even if the script forces this lovelorn romance on its audience whether they are ready or not. If only the moral of this story could have been more deeply felt, instead of just romanticized for a target audience. BEASTLY could have been something more than just a pretty picture with warm and fuzzy thoughts behind it.