A film review by Craig J. Koban July 6, 2011
2011, PG-13, 86 mins.
2011, PG-13, 86 mins.
Alex Pettyfer: Kyle / Vanessa Hudgens: Lindy / Mary-Kate Olsen: Kendra / Neil Patrick Harris: Will / Lisa Gay Hamilton: Zola
Written and directed by Daniel Barnz, based on the Alex Flinn novel
You know that you’re in trouble when a film as bewilderingly awful as BEASTLY is (a) based on literature and (b) has an Olson twin cast as a Goth-inspired, spell casting witch.
BEASTLY does make countless
other artistic blunders, but perhaps the only thing that it can’t be
held accountable for is that it is another in a long string of recent
releases from CBS Movie Studios, whose films thus far have ranged from
decidedly disappointing fare like THE BACK UP PLAN and EXTRAORDINARY
finest accolade that I could bestow upon BEASTLY is that it is
wholeheartedly merciful at a scant 86 minutes: 90-plus and it would
have been borderline unendurable. The
film is, like, the umpteenth attempt to take the classic BEAUTY AND THE
BEAST story and formula and appropriate it into a modern day love drama
that has nearly all of its searing romance, gentle sincerity, and heart
stripped away. Instead, we
get a pathetic attempt to appease the non-discerning teeny-bopper TWILIGHT –
or TWIHARD – fundamentalists with attractive, but emotionally vacant
actors populating a loathsomely routine narrative that is as equally
passionless. BEASTLY is based
on a 2007 novel by Alex Flinn of the same name.
I have not read it, but if this film is a carbon copy translation,
than I could accurately label the book as insipidly one-dimensional and
is alike BEVERLEY HILLS 90210 meets BEAUTY AND THE BEAST meets GOSSIP
GIRL, which is as undesirable of a mixture as any adult viewer could
possibly imagine. It's set in
modern day New York and, I dunno, contemporizing the material seems to
be a miscalculation of some sort. The
film introduces us to Kyle Kingsbury (a woefully bland Alex Pettyfer), a disgustingly wealthy and
annoyingly rich private high school student that just happens to be the
most popular guy at school, despite the fact that he goes out of his way
– even in front of vast numbers of people – to be
misogynistic, rude, overbearing, self-absorbed, obsessively vain, racist,
and overall unseemly. The
fact that he looks like a perfectly cut GQ cover model makes him all the
more detestable, but he’s even more hateful for how he uses his looks to
lure in woman that he essentially sees as conquests instead of people with
feelings. One girl, though,
gets under his narcissist façade and she is the shy, but pretty Lindy
(Vanessa Hudgens), a girl that is not his type, but that he inexplicably
seems drawn to.
Before anything serious can materialize between Lindy and Kyle, the latter makes a categorical blunder during a school environmental event. He decides that he would be fun to bully and ridicule a fellow student, an eccentric and moody looking girl named Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) for being unattractive and undesirable. What Kyle does not know is that Kendra is actually a powerful witch, so powerful that she secretly casts a cruel spell on Kyle to teach him a much needed lesson in humility. In short: her spell takes away his good looks. Nooooooo!!!!
the witch turns Kyle into a monster, but not of the furry and
teeth-clenched variety. He
essentially has his hair removed and is adorned with tattoos and piercings
that make him look like a walking graffiti billboard. Nonetheless, Kyle is deeply traumatized by his newfound
"beastly" appearance and confronts Kendra, who informs him that he is doomed
to stay this way forever unless – wait for it! – he can provoke a
confession of true and undying love from a girl.
He does have a time table to complete is task: he has until next
spring. Kyle’s father, a
largely unsympathetic and uncaring lawyer, is horrified by his son’s
spectacular fall from good looks, so he does what any other affluent man
of privilege would do for his new deformed son: set him up at a private
condo and keep him away from the public altogether.
Thanks a pantload, dad.
does have two companions, both of whom seem to spectacularly have no real
issues with Kyle’s sudden appearance change.
Granted, one is conveniently blind, which helps in that regard.
His first live-in companion is the house maid, Zola (Lisa Gay
Hamilton) and the other is a visually impaired tutor played by NPH
himself, Neil Patrick Harris, whom either deserves props from
affectionately hamming it up in a totally nothing role or should fire his
agent for allowing a comedically talented actor like him to wallow in this
film’s dreck. Even though
Kyle does find solace in his two friends, he remains emotionally wounded
not only because of his curse, but because his father has all but
abandoned him as well. Gee,
if only, say, Lindy could find a way to come and live with Kyle, grow to
see a handsome man buried within his ghastly appearance, and fall in love
with him to break his curse?
one thing to call BEASTLY a contrived, ham-infested, and maudlin fiasco,
but the film also manages to commit serious and oftentimes stunning errors
in even modest logic. I
laughed at how many lead characters in the film don’t ever seem to be even
remotely bothered by Kyle’s new appearance, which, by the way, falls
considerably short of coming off as monstrous or truly hideous at all;
Kyle basically looks like a male version of Lisbeth Salander from THE GIRL
WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. He,
more or less, looks like the victim of a really, really bad trip to the
salon and piercing parlor. Then
there are other things, like Kyle’s peculiar attraction to Lindy, the
events that lead to her living with him, and even the more eye-rolling
extremes of how she never once – not for a second – recognizes that
this “freak” is actually Kyle. Yup.
Sure. Uh huh.
This all leads to another massive problem with the film: I rarely, if ever, felt like I wanted these two souls together. Hudgens and Pettyfer are limitlessly attractive people, but they have zero on-screen chemistry beyond what the screenplay pathetically manufactures for them. Then there is Kyle himself, who is such a hateful cretin of a man pre-transformation that you almost yearn for him to fail in his quest and remain beastly forever. The man is just…a repugnant douche bag that constantly pontificates on how “people like people who look good” and shows, in turn, an unending hatred for all those that are not as good looking as he. He hates “hatchet faces”, “guts with butts,” and “fatty cakes.” When not picking apart others’ looks, he often comes off as a textbook bigot. This is leading man material that that you want to root for? This man deserves a beating…or at the very least a witch’s spell being cast against him.
BEASTLY is so unbearably mawkish as a romance picture that it becomes really hard to take it seriously at all, or at least as solemnly as it takes itself. It’s one of those typical and perfunctory early spring bombs that that only sees the light of day in theatres at that time because releasing at any other high marquee period would be suicide. I pondered on two things, though, while watching it when I was not squirming in my chair and feverously checking my watch. Firstly, Pettyfer, high on looks but very low on charisma or charm, has made a recent bad-boy reputation for calling L.A. and Hollywood a “shithole” and labeling the acting profession as “like being in prison.” Alex, babe, if you hate the game so much – and the end result of BEASTLY and I AM NUMBER FOUR reveal anything – then you need to please spare us and leave…now. Lastly, director Daniel Barnz said he was inspired by SAY ANYTHING when making BEASTLY.
Hmmmm…that comment makes me wonder if he has even seen that John Cusack 1980's classic at all, or any version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST for that matter.