IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 86 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera
Wealthy, handsome teenager Kyle Kingson has everything a teenager could want in life, but is also arrogant. When he invites his misfit classmate Kendra to a rally then spurns her, the girl, who’s actually a witch, casts a spell on him and turns him into an unsightly creature who repulses everyone he meets. The only way to reverse it if for him to find someone who can love him for who he is on the inside. He saves a drug addict and says he’ll protect him as long as his lovely daughter, Lindy, comes to live with him in his sprawling home….
The story of Beauty And The Beast has been a great source of inspiration for many writers and filmmakers over the years. Aside from the many direct adaptations, the two best of which are probably the French La belle et la bête  and the Disney animated version from 1991, there have been countless tales, from The Phantom Of The Opera to King Kong, which draw from the concept. I certainly haven’t seen all the direct adaptations, but I’m willing to bet a huge sum of money that none of them are as bad as Beastly. Now I dislike Twilight for a variety of reasons, and not just that they’re atrociously written and abysmally acted; in fact I could write a whole essay on those reasons. However, one major one is that it seems to have inspired studios to take various stories and concepts, from Red Riding Hood to the well worn idea of an alien stranded on Earth, and ‘twi-fi’ them [ no , it’s not a real word, but ought to be!], to centre it around a romance between a girl and a brooding, slightly scary, outsider like the Bella and Edward story of Twilight. The latest film to do this is Beastly, which is apparently based on a book which is far better. Well, it could hardly be worse.
What we basically have here is indeed Beauty And The Beast, but set amidst American teenagers and told from the point of view of the Beast. This latter idea is a not unworthy concept, but it would be hard to do even by people who are talented. The Beast is always the character who’s shrouded in mystery and it’s Belle, or the Belle equivalent, who undergoes more character development. Unsurprisingly, it’s totally botched here. For a short while we watch Kyle being unpleasant and taking delight in humiliating people, nd it’s very irritating though I suppose that’s the point. Anyway, he’s cursed by Kendra, and he turns into not an actual Beast but something resembling a Frankenstein Monster [he actually reminded me a little of Robert De Niro’s incarnation], with scars and – no the posters aren’t lying – lots and lots of tattoos. Yes, what you see on the poster is really what he looks like! I really don’t know what they were trying to do here. I guess that they wanted to make the Beast more realistic and believable, but instead he’s just laughable, and the makeup design makes no attempt to hide star Alex Pettyfer’s features, making a mockery of the constant talk in this movie about real beauty being on the inside and all that. And how the hell does Lindy, who met Kyle earlier, not recognise him in his Beast form, even though it’s painfully obvious that it’s the same person?!
Anyway, he’s banished to this huge house, and the pace of the film slows to a crawl as he tries to adjust to his existence. Neil Patrick Harris shows up as a psychologist to do his usual schtick, though looking and acting more tired than usual, and starts to live in the house, which means more boring talking. Because the dialogue is so dreary and constantly hammering home its themes [for example Harris’ character Will is blind, so of course he can see the beauty within Kyle], the film seems to be almost constantly marking time, despite it being under an hour and a half. Eventually, about half way through, we get the romance, which is tediously handled with endless dialogue scenes which all but repeat the same sequence over and over again [a common problem with the Twilight films] and lots of miserable [I think the term is ‘emo’, but I’m not entirely sure what that means] pop songs. The fact that Lindy likes Kyle as soon he sees him [upon first viewing him properly, she says “I’ve seen worse”] removes most of the potential drama, and what remains is just sooooo dreary, leading to no climax in particular.
My reviews normally follow something resembling a set pattern so I usually mention the acting in a film in the final paragraph, but I’m going to mention the performances in this movie earlier because they are such a major problem with it. Alex Pettyfer is simply awful in the role of Kyle, which, although badly written, could have been partially saved by a skilled actor. Pettyfer is hilariously unconvincing when he’s trying to be the unsympathetic Kyle of the earlier scenes, but he’s even worse as the ‘Beast’, just constantly whining and moaning. Where’s the rage? Where’s the, well, beastliness? It’s just not there. Vanessa Hudgins is just terribly flat all the way through, a good example being a quick moment when Lindy is told some devastating news over the phone. Her expression just looks like she’s pretending. I may have been willing to forgive a little of this if the two had something resembling chemistry, but they have none, and never convince they’re falling in love. The script, which throws cheesy one liners at you by the bucket load, is abysmal [though I laughed out loud when someone says, “are you sure I’m not boring you yet”?], and this is despite tossing in the odd slightly random plot element such as a drug-addict father. Other amazing characters are the Jamaican maid Zola, played by Lisa Gay Hamilton with such a crappy Jamaican accent that the country should sue, who for some reason stays with Kyle despite him making nasty comments to her, and Mary Kate-Olsen who actually does a reasonable job as Zendra, but spends most of the time looking like a fashion model rather than an evil sorceress. Other okay things in the movie are a well put together montage showing the changing seasons behind Kyle and Lindy in a greenhouse – and, um, that’s probably it.
I probably sound like I’m making Beastly kind of fun in a bad way, but believe me, it’s not; it’s stultifyingly boring and never even becomes interesting. You”d never know writer and director Daniel Barnz had also made the rather good Pheobe In Wonderland. Of course one can say that I’m not the target audience [and it did seem that the many teenage girls at the showing I was at were worryingly into the movie], but I don’t believe that should matter. Although I’m not a fan of teen movies I’ll readily admit there are many fine films in the genre, and the whole issue of target audience seems nonsense to me. As an example, I personally enjoy many animated movies, from The Jungle Book to Toy Story; hell, I saw Rio last week, and yet in no way would I be considered the ‘target audience’. In my opinion a good film is a good film and should be enjoyed or at least appreciated by a diverse range of people. I actually feel sorry for today’s teenagers. If they lived in the ’80s they could be enjoying films like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Instead they’re being fed crap like Twilight and High School Musical, which are so dumb as to be patronising. Now I’m not a religious man, but just once I’m going to say to God, “please God, if you are actually out there, please give me 86 minutes of my life back”.