Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris
Daniel Barnz, Alex Flinn (Novel)
"Be Mine" Music Video by Kristina and the Dolls;
A Classic Tale Retold: The Story of Beastly;
Creating the Perfect Beast
Beastly is made precisely for those people who will enter the movie theater not 100% sure that the film is a retelling of the "Beauty & The Beast" storyline.
Take that statement however you'd like.
Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) has everything - looks, money, intelligence and opportunity. Kyle not only flaunts his beauty, but taunts mercilessly "aggressively unattractive" classmates who endure his vicious abuse and humiliation. Such is the case when Kyle asks Goth classmate Kendra (Vanessa Hudgens) to the class's extravagant environmental bash only to blow her off in a particularly humiliating manner. Not to be outdone, Kendra casts a spell upon Kyle that turns him into everything that he has always despised. Enraged at what he's become, Kyle learns that the only way to break the spell is for him to find someone who will love him "as is."
Why is it that studios always insist that it's only the really beautiful people who can tell everyone else that we have to redefine what beauty is? Isn't there a bit of hypocrisy in casting pretty boy Alex Pettyfer in a film where the central message is that beauty is within and that physical appearance is irrelevant?
Daniel Barnz, whom I had the privilege to meet after his last film Phoebe in Wonderland, can't quite keep this material alive either because the material itself doesn't give him much to work with or, even more likely, the cast he's been stuck with isn't capable of pulling the material off with any conviction.
The main culprit is Alex Pettyfer, who is far more convincing as an egotistical a**hole than he is as he supposedly withdraws into his own ugliness and then starts to learn his major life lessons in what can best be described as faux humility and laughably awkward scenes of emotional revelation. Vanessa Hudgens was far more sincere during her "I'm a stupid teenager and showing my bush to my boyfriend" ill-advised photos from a couple years back. Actually, Hudgens is far more sincere here and while she can't quite transcend the formulaic material she does at least make for a pleasing screen presence that might indicate at least a modest post-High School Musical life.
Far more successful are supporting players Neil Patrick Harris and Mary-Kate Olsen (Who thought I'd ever say that?), who manage to tap into the film's campy potential and appear to be having quite the fun here despite being given almost nothing to play against.
Tony Gardner's special effects for Kyle's "hideous" appearance, which actually more resembles a bad tattoo job on a coked up biker, are pro and there's more than a fair chance that every outcast teenage boy and girl will find moments of connection and resonance in the film. If you find the Twilight films emotionally resonant, then by all means don't hesitate to check out Beastly.
Hmmm. Yeah. That really does say it all.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic