Not much about Beastly rings true
Starring Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens. Rated PG.
This modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast for the Twilight generation is so concerned about appearances that even its title creature has a studied tattied-punk alternachic.
Watch the trailer for Beastly.
In Beastly, goth high-school witch Kendra (a raccoon-eyed Mary-Kate Olsen) turns arrogant heartthrob Kyle into a monster “as aggressively ugly on the outside as you are on the inside”. The result: our preppy, blond bad boy (Alex Pettyfer) finds himself a skinhead, crisscrossed with face tattoos and elaborate piercings. His look—call it Jim Rose Circus member meets Nine Inch Nails fan—departs drastically from the description in Alex Flinn’s hit 2007 teen novel, on which the movie is based: “not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog”.
But the film version is all about surfaces, forgoing meaningful character or plot development for amped-up soundtrack moments. Our modest “Beauty”, Lindy (High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens), ends up “imprisoned” with her beast because of some lame plot point about thugs being after her drug-addict dad.
Little else in the movie rings true either. Lindy and Kyle’s high school looks like an ultramodern glass high-rise, and the condo he shares with his famous news-anchor father is as whitewashed as the interiors for 2001: A Space Odyssey. And the not-exactly-handy-looking Kyle builds and grows Lindy an elaborate rooftop rose greenhouse in what seems like a few days.
Even the bit parts are insulting, from the ever-jovial blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) who cheers up our beast to the saintly Jamaican maid (Lisa Gay Hamilton) who helps Kyle learn compassion. Throughout, our fascinatingly inked hero sulks while his Beauty nurtures.
It’s all fairy-tale light, with even less depth or darkness than the Disney movie. You want beastly, though? Check out Olsen’s pouty performance.
Now that’s hideous.