Beastly is marketing itself as a modern take on Beauty and the Beast. But the film isn't so much of an update of that timeless tale as it is a mockery of it. Beastly is not in the same league of the 1991 Disney classic. What's really embarrassing is that the film doesn't even exceed the low bar that the "Twilight" films have set for mystical, trendy teen romances.
Alex Pettyfer was previously seen not too long ago in I Am Number Four. Now he's back in yet another forgettable performance as Kyle, a handsome, arrogant high school student. In the beginning of the film, Kyle makes a speech before his fellow peers in which he dumps on ugly people and gloats about his good looks. All the while, everybody applauds his shallow words. Appearance can take a person far in this society (that's probably the prime reason why Pettyfer has starred in two multi-million dollar movies in less than three months). But if a guy were to get on a stage and claim that beautiful people are superior to ugly people in every respect, the audience would not be cheering him on. They'd be thinking to themselves, "What a conceited ass. I feel so awkward listening to him."
One particular "ugly" person that Kyle has been victimizing is Kendra, a gothic chick played by Mary-Kate Olsen. Kendra has had enough of Kyle's narcissism and uses her black magic to place a curse on him. Kyle looses all of this luscious blonde hair and his body is covered with tattoos and scars. The spell can only be broken if Kyle can find somebody to love him within the next year. If he fails, he'll be doomed to remain a beast for all time.
Kyle sets his eyes on a young girl named Lindy, played by Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame. Through a series of contrivances, Lindy ends up living with Kyle against her will. They get off to a rough start. But Kyle finally manages to break the barrier by buying Lindy her favorite candy, Jujyfruit. Some may call this romantic. I call it shameless product placement. Lindy manages to see past Kyle's exterior to find a gentle soul inside and ... do I really need to tell you the rest?
The problem with Beastly, other than its forgettable romance and bland leads, is that the story is so by the books. The filmmakers had the opportunity to put a fun contemporary spin on a classic fairytale. But the movie plays it safe with a screenplay that takes no inventive chances. Instead of having Kyle actually try to find love, why not have him go on talk shows and discuss his new disability? The film's message of inner beauty might have gotten sidetracked. But it still would have been more interesting than what was produced.
The most curious character is Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra. In addition to being able to curse people, we also learn that this witch has healing abilities. Yet, she doesn't seem to use these powers to help those in need on a regular basis. Basically her motto is: To hell with all those innocent people suffering from terminal illnesses. But if somebody calls me ugly they get hexed.
There is one redeeming presence in Beastly, the always-entertaining Neil Patrick Harris as a blind tutor. Harris is the only person in the film that seems to be having fun in his role and scores a couple of funny lines. While Harris manages to prevent Beastly from being an awful film, not even he can make the experience worth enduring. It's just too bad that Harris can't have a part in every movie. Then there would be no unwatchable films, just really bad ones at worst.