Typical teen tripe, “Beastly” is as monstrous to watch as it sounds. Making things barely tolerable are a Gothed-to-the-max Mary-Kate Olsen and a hammy Neil Patrick Harris, who gets the film’s least embarrassing lines.
Typical teen tripe, “Beastly” is as monstrous to watch as it sounds. The film is a modern-day take on “Beauty and the Beast,” starring Alex Pettyfer as a teenage hunk-turned-beast pining for “High School Musical” beauty Vanessa Hudgens.
Making things barely tolerable are a Gothed-to-the-max Mary-Kate Olsen and a hammy Neil Patrick Harris, who gets the film’s least embarrassing lines.
Olsen’s character isn’t really a stretch for her, but the pint-size twin is pitch perfect as the high school witch, Kendra, who casts the spell on Pettyfer’s pretty-boy Kyle. He’s a rich, popular kid with Greek-god good looks and chiseled muscles. He says lines such as, “People like people who look good. Anyone who says different is either ugly or dumb.”
After Kyle insults Kendra’s witchy ways one too many times –– he refers to her as “Franken skank” –– she turns him into a bald wretch with ugly tattoos and deep scars all over his body. In his words, he looks “like the lead in a slasher film.” The spell can only be broken once a woman falls in love with Kyle, not for how he looks, but because of what’s in his heart –– naturally. The love interest turns out to be classmate Lindy (Hudgens), who, thanks to some WTF plot machinations, is forced to live with Kyle.
What develops is a tale as old as time and a song as old as rhyme. Culled from the Alex Flinn novel, the film “Beastly” was written and directed by Daniel Barnz, who helmed “Phoebe in Wonderland.” Just as he did in that film, Barnz fills “Beastly” with unnecessary metaphors and contrivances as Kyle attempts to woo Lindy with Jujyfruits and poetry. Both teens also find common ground over their deadbeat dads and missing moms. None of it matters because you don’t really care what happens to them. There is zero charm or chemistry between Pettyfer and Hudgens. Her character is a cliche, and she does nothing to make anyone think otherwise.
British actor Pettyfer, who also stars in the still-in-theaters Disney suspense thriller “I Am Number Four,” is trying really, really hard to fill his character with complexity and nuance. He does his dutiful best, starting out with pompous conceit and then turning to anger and fear. Perhaps someday he’ll evolve into a more pliable actor.
First, though, he needs good material. That’s where Barnz lets his whole cast down. The more the story unfolds, the deeper they all sink into formulaic fairytale abyss, including the never-in-doubt ending.
Harris is the only character thrown a life jacket. He’s as welcome as a comic relief as Kyle’s blind tutor. Will might just be a less-horny version of Harris’ “How I Met Your Mother” character, but he is a breath of fresh air. Lisa Gay Hamilton (“The Truth About Charlie”) is wasted as the housekeeper and surrogate mother, charged with minding Kyle because his father (Peter Krause of TV’s “Parenthood”) is a shallow news anchor and can’t stand to look at him.
“Beastly” has its heart in the right place as it tells the moral tale that beauty is only skin deep. It’s just too bad there is no magic in this fairytale.
Reach Dana Barbuto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEASTLY (PG-13, for language, brief violence and thematic material.) Cast includes Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen. 1 star out 4.