Beastly is a prime example of how out of touch some Hollywood producers are with the real world. Attempting to take advantage of the lucrative wave that mixes teenage romance with the supernatural, which had its peak with the Twilight saga (let’s not even get started on that), they attempted to rescue the 18th century “Beauty And The Beast” fairy tale and process it for an MTV audience as some sort of faux indie film. The premise is simple: to dress a centuries-old tried and tested story in modern clothes, give it some high school teenagers portrayed by the usual contemporary stars who are actually in their twenties, and wrap it all up with a “trendy” pop-rock soundtrack. Its main problem, however, is that they’re completely oblivious as to what is effectively a “beast” nowadays.
“My name is Patrick Bateman. I am 27 years old.” – sorry, wrong movie
In Beastly’s world, the transformation of popular and incredibly shallow teen Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), someone who – like the prince in the tale – needs to learn a lesson, isn’t into an abominable monster, but into someone who looks like they belong in the alternative music scene. His previous looks-obsessed self is transformed into some sort of punk. His hair is shaved off and he gains a number of piercings, tattoos and a couple of small scars – the producers’ idea of what a freak looks like. It’s exactly at this point that the movie self-sabotages itself beyond salvation. Literally, you don’t need to go very far in any average city to find someone whose looks closely resemble poor cursed Kyle’s.
Following the narrative of the tale, this “prince” – in this case, the son of a millionaire news anchor – needs to find true love within one year, or he’ll look all weird and beastly forever. The curse was courtesy of angry-gothic-teenage-witch Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), who looks like a cheap and tacky Lady Gaga but in fact isn’t even the worst actress on set – this alone should tell you how bad this film is. It seems she didn’t realise that all this newborn monster would have to do to find a soul mate would be to frequent the same nightclubs she does for a few weeks.
Channel your inner Papa Legba, girl!
Banished to daddy’s manor-pad in Brooklyn (the horror!), Kyle has to learn how to live with his minions servants, blind tutor Will (Neil Patrick Harris, the only actor actually acts in this film, albeit coming across very much the same character as most of his other characters) and the Jamaican maid Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton). It doesn’t take long for Beauty Lindy to show up at his doorstep, portrayed with sweet but abysmal acting by Vanessa Hudgens. From this point onwards there are a bunch of foregone epiphanies, lessons learnt, scenes straight out of Disney’s adaptation (Lindy’s sick father, the anonymous meal delivery and the withering rose, or in this case a tree tattoo, to name but a few), platitudes and empty words, etc. Lindy had already fallen in love with the original, egotistical Kyle, but falls for Frankenstein’s monster Kyle v2.0 just as quickly.
Sorry about that. I’ll get the puke bucket now.
In this manner, producer and screenplay writer Daniel Barnz delivers a tremendously poor package, ignoring the real meaning of the original fairy tale. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he just comes across as not knowing an awful lot about cinema, period. For instance, if one of the characters says “I love you”, or words to that effect, up goes the music cranked all the way to 10, which does nothing but highlight the character’s lack of acting skills. Using the power of image over narrative and sound? Nah. The only redeeming feature is that he’s able to create good atmospheres – the house and its surroundings aren’t bad – but that’s unfortunately not nearly enough to make up for the rest of this terrible movie. The secondary characters are barely two-dimensional and serve only the purpose of delivering a few lines of irrelevant text every now and then. Luckily for them, at the end of the film, witchy Kendra manages to conjure up some green cards for Zola’s family (clearly in a pre-Trump era) and restores Will’s vision – not that he’d want to watch this movie.
Fleetwood Mac called. They want their Stevie back.
Top quote: “You’re a good friend”. Well, I think we can only agree that can only mean one thing. #friendzone
Rating: Beastly is such a simplistic, poorly written and interpreted film that only a spell could turn it into something more interesting.