Louise does Beastly

“Best embrace the suck.”

The Scoop: 2011 PG-13 , Directed by Daniel Barnz and starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens and Mary Kate Olsen.

Tagline: Love is never ugly.

Summary Capsule: Popular, good-looking kid gets cursed with ugliness, and nothing else interesting happens for two hours.

Louise’s Rating: Love is plenty time ugly. Stupid tagline grrr…

Louise’s Review: I’m going to be upfront and say I rather enjoyed this. Had I been watching it while snuggling with my thirteen-year-old sister (or, let’s be honest, my twenty-year-old yet hopeless romantic brother), I probably would have enjoyed it still more.

It’s a romance between pretty people. I don’t believe for a moment that a girl who looks like Vanessa Hudgens – our heroine Lindy – is ever going to be an ‘outsider’. Sorry, filmmakers. However, I was convinced that she and the Beast (Kyle, A.K.A. Hunter, played by the blond and appealing Alex Pettyfer) had actually built enough a relationship to warrant an “I love you” and break the spell laid upon him. She lives with him for months, he builds her a greenhouse and writes her letters and they read poetry, talk and dub foreign television together.

While I might identify more if he built her a museum and they watched Stargate Universe, it’s still rather sweet.

The characters don’t have much *character* to recommend them, but they say the right things and make the right moves at the right time to satisfy me. And, what can I say? I like the Pettyfer. I think he’s got a voice like a chocolate mousse dessert, and I dig the blond and the bone structure.

I would also point out that this is also a teen romance about teen characters for a teen audience (though not necessarily starring teen actors!). Be warned: there is the usual tiresome awkwardness as Kyle learns he can’t buy Lindy’s love. Kyle is a preppy kid’s version of a monster. I can see why he thinks no-one will fancy him. Idiot youth.

I almost wish that the spell hadn’t been broken, and he learned that his look might be just what the witch-doctor ordered for the specialist-taste ladies in their twenties and thirties. That would be fun. But, that’s another film, one that is hopefully not rated PG, and not under discussion here. Ahem.

Kyle is cursed by Kendra, a Jamaican vampire slayer a teen version of a witch, i.e. a goth girl, or “self-mutilating tattooed/tattered Franken-skank”, played by Mary-Kate Olsen. Again, she is called ugly when she is clearly working a particular style. I’d also point out that the ‘ugly’ Beast and the ‘ugly’ witch are still really thin. So, the beastliness is decidedly softcore and mainstream, to be honest. Hmm…  I’m not talking up this film very well. But the romance has something going for it.

Beastly commits pretty completely to being a modern fairy tale. They could have just made it a monster-meets-girl story to justify the title, but they brought in many elements from the old story, which impresses me. There are roses, her incapable father landing her in a mess, his illness taking her from the Beast, all familiar friends from books, Disney and Cocteau. There is magic too. The witch’s magic is never really explained – like I said, she’s a goth girl, and I think that few enough goth girls have powers to warrant some exposition – but the production certainly has a magical air in the way scenes transition from day to night and autumn to winter to spring. Also tattoos! That move!

(SPOILER) I was intrigued that what kept our lovers apart at the end was down to him – he is a *boy* and therefore *stupid* – not her: bold twist, entirely appropriate for a modern update. However, they then pulled back from having her actually leave on this trip she’d been going on about! Why? That’s your opportunity to have some suspense, movie makers! He could let her go to show the depth of his love. He doesn’t care about breaking the spell anymore, just that she loves him. She could rush back and find him suffering in the greenhouse, because it’s the deadline and even though he doesn’t care anymore it still causes magic pain! It would be cool! We’re supposed to think it’s all over, but then the Power of Love works its stuff! What went wrong, writers? Did you think the film was too long? I assure you, an extra 8 minutes could have made a big difference. (END SPOILERS)

So, that was another paragraph about my screenwriter fantasies rather than the film itself. Um, sorry. Back on track, quick! Props also go to Neil Patrick Harris for his role as the tutor, and Lisa Gay Hamilton for her role as Zola the housekeeper. They have more than fine bone structure keeping their performances together and put heart into the piece. Yes indeed.

It’s for the young people, this, Alex Pettyfer fans and those who are sappily romantic or really into our fairy tales. Will it last? Doubt it. Nevertheless, I’m going to check the novel out of the library now, listen to some Within Temptation music and dream about love, and one day writing an amazing teen-demon-Shakespearean-musical movie. ‘Cause this wasn’t it, but it’s certainly put me in the mood.

Mike’s Rating: If I had moving tatoos, I think I’d want that animated .gif where Snooki gets punched in the face.

Mike’s Review: There’s a sad parallel between Beastly and its main character, Kyle. Both are extremely good-looking, but ultimately neither have any depth or profundity. And while Kyle eventually discovers that looks aren’t everything and it’s what inside that counts, the film itself remains sadly devoid of substance.

Pettyfer’s Kyle is an arrogant, image obsessed popular kid, meant to call to mind images of Sebastian from Cruel Intentions, but the one scene meant to convey this characterization veers too far into stereotypical “teen rich boy” clichés to be taken seriously. We’re not given any reason to hate him enough to think he deserves his fate, and we’re not given enough reason to like him for the rest of the movie. His transformation into a heavily tatooed and pierced version of himself  is nowhere near as visceral as the film wants us to think it is. He’s really not that hard on the eyes at all. One would assume he could go to a goth-punk bar and meet a girl who actually digs his new look.Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy is supposed to be an outsider due to her status as a scholarship student and her individuality. Apart from the fact that girls that look like Hudgens don’t actually suffer from unpopularity, she’s nowhere near as interesting as the story makes her out to be. Basically, she’s a generic love interest dujour, and there’s nothing in her performance that takes the character above that two-dimensional part. I’m reserving judgement until I see the performance Zack Snyder is able to get out of her in Sucker Punch, but between this and High School Musical, I’m starting to think she’s just a pretty face with no real emotional depth as an actress.

This film suffers immensely from a lack of an antagonist or any real conflict. Disney’s version of Beauty & the Beast solved this problem with the inclusion of Gaston, to outstanding effect. Somebody on this movie’s production team should have been taking notes, because at no point is the audience given any reason to assume that they’ll be given anything other than the happy ending they’re expecting. There’s no suspense, no real weight and no surprises. This is a bit sad, because several individual scenes, as well as the overall premise, have so much potential for gravitas and poignancy, but end up invariably falling flat.

It’s not as though Beastly is a complete stinker though. As I’ve mentioned the film is visually appealing. Kyle’s animated tatoos, the shots of New York in winter, and the way scenes transition to show the passage of time lend an otherwordly feel to the movie. The make-up job, all tatoos and scars with metal running though them, looks pretty cool.The performances aren’t all one-note either. Neil Patrick Harris as a blind tutor provides some genuinely funny moments, and Mary Kate Olsen is surprisingly good as the witch who curses Kyle.

In the long run, Beastly is a nice harmless teen fairy tale, which looks good enough to keep it from being a complete fail, but lacks any of the substance needed to make it worth seeing in the theater. Wait for it to go to Netflix and watch it while you’re doing something else…or I’ll curse you with a really bad skin rash…

Just like this guy

Intermission:

  • Because everything he does is awesome, Neil Patrick Harris wore opaque contact lenses so he would actually be sightless during filming.
  • Zach Efron was considered for the role of Kyle/Hunter.
  • The film was originally slated for release in 2010, but got moved back to avoid competing with the Zac Efron movie Charlie St. Cloud, as Efron and Vanessa Hudgens were dating. Later the film was moved forward for an earlier release so as not to coincide with Hudgen’s latest movie, the Zach Snyder-directed Sucker Punch.
  • The movie is an adaptation of a young adult novel of the same name written by Alex Flinn, featuring many allusions to Beauty & the Beast, and chat room excerpts where Kyle talks to other teens who have been turned into monsters.
  • Kendra’s a goth girl? Goths of the world say, Where were you in 410 when we sacked Rome?
  • The tattoos over Kyle’s eyebrows read “Embrace” and “Suck”.
  • Link to external website for fun Beastly cartoon.

Groovy Quotes:

Kyle: Best embrace the suck.

Kendra: Wow, looks are important to you.
Kyle: Very important to everyone. Except you. Clearly.
Kendra: Imagine life without them.

Kendra: You have a year to find someone to love you, or stay like this forever…As aggressively unattractive outside as you are inside.

Kyle: Please make this go away! I’ve learned my lesson!
Kendra: You’ve learned nothing. Find someone who can see better than you can.

Lindy: What’s with the mask?!
Kyle: I don’t wanna freak you out.
Lindy: Sure, the ski mask didn’t freak me out.

Kyle: (watching Will playing darts despite being blind) How do you do that?
Will: I went to a dance and a witch cursed me with a “dart hex”.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Twilight
  • La Belle et La Bete (dir. Jean Cocteau)
  • The Phantom of the Opera
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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Courtney does Red Riding Hood « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  2. Pingback: Louise does Beauty and the Beast | Mutant Reviewers

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