Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Neil Patrick Harris, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Mary-Kate Olsen
Directed by Daniel Barnz
Beastly opens with rich NYC pretty boy Kyle (Alex Pettyfer, fresh off playing Edward Flashlighthands in the sci-fi Twilight wannabe I Am Number Four, striking out in yet another failed attempt to make him the new Robert Pattinson) giving his stump speech for the presidency of his posh high school’s eco-committee. This campaign speech begins with him insulting all the “ugly” students in the audience; he then moves on to declare the genetic superiority of the beautiful people like himself and concludes to a thunderous round of applause as he tells everyone they should vote for him simply because molecular perfection like himself deserves exceptional treatment from society. If he’d cupped his hands behind his head and swiveled his hips, I’d have sworn it was “Ravishing” Rick Rude cutting a promo in a WWF ring circa 1988. So ridiculously overloaded with narcissistic pomp is this speech it sounds like bad parody – it’s not. The guy even openly admits he only wants the office because it will look good on his college transcripts. Suffice to say, Kyle wins the election in a landslide.
His bratitude raises the ire of Kendra, the high school’s resident Goth girl, played by Mary-Kate Olsen dressed as if she were starring in a Greenwich Village rock opera stage production of The Craft. She even sports a Mike Tyson-esque face tattoo for extra added Gothiness. Kendra just so happens to be a full-fledged witch with magical powers that she uses to curse Kyle for his arrogance and meanness towards others. She’s a modern witch; incantations have gone from the days of “Double, double, toil and trouble” to “Get ready to embrace the suck.”
The suck causes Kyle to go bald, his skin to become covered with large black veins, two or three face scars and an unsightly boil or two adorn his face, the words “embrace” and “suck” tattooed in calligraphy where his eyebrows should be (something nobody ever seems to take notice of), and these blue-silver squiggly designs manifest on his forehead and bridge of his nose that I guarantee would make him a hit at a “Stargate SG-1” convention. Kendra tells him that he will stay like this forever unless he’s able to get someone to look past his ugly appearance to see him for his inner beauty and tell him “I love you” within a year.
Here I find a major source of contention. Is he really all that beastly? I suppose if the most important thing in your life is priding yourself on being a white hot walking slab of Third Reich master race porn, then being physically transformed into looking like Powder covered in full body hemorrhoids would be the end of the world for you. But honestly, there are soldiers that have come back from war with worse disfigurements, people that have lost most of their flesh in fires, people whose physical exterior have been ravaged far worse by a variety of diseases and accidents, that have gone on to lead relatively normal lives with women that love them regardless. This guy still has six-pack abs, a chin of granite, and at worst looks like a chemo patient who got into a car accident on his way to a henna tattoo convention. A hot girl at a Halloween party gets one look at cursed Kyle and tells him how hot his make-up is; the first thing the woman he begins to romance says to him upon getting a good look at him is “I’ve seen worse.” So have I. He’s not even physically repulsive enough to make it as a Garbage Pail Kid named “Varicose Vin”.
The other problem here is that Kyle is supposed to change internally. You know, like when he goes from being a hateful a-hole to the housekeeper with the fake Jamaican accent to thinking about her well being by doing nothing more than asking her one little question as to how much she misses her kids still living back in Jamaica. See? He’s growing as a person, changing for the better. Never mind that he barely ever speaks to this woman who lives with him in order to wait on him hand and foot again for the remainder of the movie.
Kyle even comes to respect and feel empathy for the sightless plight of the blind tutor his equally egotistic TV anchorman absentee father has hired to live with him to keep up with his education. Neil Patrick Harris stands out in his limited (and mostly pointless) scenes as the quick-witted live-in teacher who never actually teaches anything. Points deducted, however, for the number of scenes where it looked as if Harris would momentarily forget his character was supposed to be blind.
If the movie had a sincere bone in its body, it would have ugly Kyle romancing some representative of the very type of “ugly” people he’s railed against: the fattest girl in school or some gawky ugly duckling type – not Vanessa Hudgens. The High School Musical graduate becomes the object of Kyle’s affection as Lindy, the poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks, a girl supposedly of the plain Jane variety even though she’s more beautiful than Kyle’s previous girlfriend. It doesn’t help that this Lindy comes across as shallow in her own right, not to mention being so flaky she won’t even recognize this bald guy with some skin scarring calling himself “Hunter” she’ll spend several months living with as Kyle even though she had a major crush on him in school and continues to keep a picture of him as her laptop wallpaper.
Kyle dons his finest black hoodie in order to stalk her throughout the city. Her dad happens to be a drug addict mixed up with some violent dealing brothers. Kyle intervenes to rescue Lindy during a fire escape altercation that results in her dad shooting one of the brotherly thugs dead. The other brother threatens “Your daughter’s life for my brother’s! I will find her!” I know this movie is based on a novel written for thirteen-year-olds, but was it also written by a thirteen-year-old?
A purely idiotic plot twist has her dad deciding to protect her from this dangerous drug dealer by agreeing to ship Lindy off to live with Kyle at the fancy Brooklyn loft Kyle’s absentee father has set up to keep him stashed away from the real world. The matter of the revenge-minded drug deal will never be brought up again until the entire subplot gets wrapped up near the end in a single text message.
Romance blooms - just like the flowers in the rooftop greenhouse Kyle builds for Lindy. Romance blooms – just like the flowery language of the poetry they study together. Meanwhile, the Jamaican housekeeper and live-in tutor try to pass the time playing backgammon. I’m supposed to be feeling the romance between these two vacuous entities, but the only emotion I ever found myself feeling was pity for these two indentured servants being held in captivity. Also boredom; does boredom count as an emotion or a state of mind?
Romance requires sincerity, and Beastly doesn’t have a sincere bone in its terribly written, acted, and directed body. A Twilight-ized dumbing down of Beauty & the Beast based on a popular teen novel (very, very loosely as I understand it) that spends its entire running time railing against superficiality while having absolutely nothing to offer but superficiality. Listening to these two teenagers converse about life and love and hopes and dreams had me longing for Edward and Bella - at least they mostly just stare silently at one another.
Embrace the suck, indeed.
1 out of 5
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