Sony Pictures // PG-13 // $28.95 // June 28, 2011
Review by Nick Hartel | posted August 17, 2011
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Let's get through this as quickly and painfully as possible. I've bitten the bullet for the morbidly curious and subjected myself to the horrors of "Beastly" a feeble, vapid attempt at modernizing "Beauty and the Beast." Writer/Director Daniel Barnz delivers a tale that has no understanding of the original tale nor the inherent danger in frivolously spoofing issues facing the teenage demographic the film is targeted to. Assembling a cast that includes one of the Olsen twins, the girl from "High School Musical," the star of this year's smash sci-fi success "I Am Number 4" (no, that's not sarcasm, I'd never be so cheap and petty), and Neil Patrick Harris who must have been offered a good chunk of change to do very little, "Beastly" will simultaneously bore and maybe even offend you as it wildly flails about on the screen, until 86-minutes (was it really that short, it sure didn't feel that way?) it mercifully ends and you can try and purge the time wasted from your memory.

Where does one begin? The sheer notion that leads Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens were key elements in two other 2011 big-screen stinkers, "I Am Number Four" and "Sucker Punch" respectively says a lot for a film that pairs the two together in a story of petty teenage romance haphazardly serving as the crux of a classic fable. Pettyfer blandly inhabits the role of Kyle, son to a wealthy father and popular high school pretty boy who holds nothing but hatred and disdain for the "uglies" who don't meet his ideal standard of beauty and social standing. The early sequence that introduces Kyle's SNL-esque level of social bigotry is a surreal sketch of elitism that would make Brett Easton Ellis jealous, if only it weren't actually written with competence. Enter frumpy opposite, Lindy (Hudgens) who is the "plain girl" by typical, tired Hollywood standards of putting her in baggy clothes and throwing a hippie-ish hair accessory sets her apart from Kyle's designer suits. Naturally Kyle insults her before turning his venom to the even more eccentric Kendra, textbook goth with a small facial tattoo played by Mary-Kate Olsen in either the film's most brilliant piece of acting or through sheer serendipitous ineptitude. Olsen steals every scene she's in and isn't afraid to chew scenery, revealing herself to be a witch who curses Kyle with baldness, tattoos any self respecting outsider would die for and a bit of cyberpunk biomechanical hardware to boot.

All of "Beastly's" problems are summed up by the sequence following Kyle's newfound affliction as his father half-heartedly attempts to get him help, before casting him off to a lavish penthouse with a maid (who Kyle earlier in the film expanded his repertoire of shallow superficiality to outright racism) and a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris), who alongside Olsen's Kendra appears to be the only actor embracing the terrible script and milking every second of camera time for what it's worth. The ultimate intent of "Beastly" is to teach the audience that beauty is within and people can change and blah, blah, blah. Yet, as shallow a character as Kyle is in the beginning, the film itself picks up where his character leaves off sending the take-home message that the key to true love is a healthy dose of carpentry, woe-is-me letter writing, and general stalking. Kyle wastes not a moment of his time engaging in all three activities, at one point, if memory serves correctly simultaneously, because after all he only has a year to get poor Lindy to love him or he's cursed forever!

"Beastly has little redeeming value; the performances are generally wretched, with poor Vanessa Hudgens slowly realizing there is a fate worse than Disney TV movies and Pettyfer just plain clueless. One really can't say much more for the script, which is laid out plain as day in the first 15-minutes of the movie; it's a sloppy trite script that completely undermines any real attempt at conveying a message to the teen audience and has an air of (unintentional?) cynicism that smothers the few moments that rise to a level of plain mediocrity. Barnz' direction and the general art design of the film is the only thing that gives it the slightest appearance of having more under the hood than it actually does and on one level the film at least has the necessary parts required to be a complete film, it's just that those parts are all junk. In the end, "Beastly" isn't worth anyone's time and this isn't coming from a bitter man who is well outside the target audience (I'll still defend the first "Twilight" from detractors), but as a human being with a sense of good taste who doesn't enjoy being pandered to.


The Video

The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is far more competent and eye catching than the film deserves. Colors are consistent, keeping the with the cool color palette selected by the filmmaker. Detail is generally above average with minimal grain/noise and no extraneous digital tinkering.

The Audio

The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio track is entirely too focused on the score and effects leaving dialogue a little more pushed back than it should be. It's a fairly aggressive mix that doesn't fully match the tone of the film but otherwise technically sound. Standard English and English SDH subtitles are included.

The Extras

In the bonus features department, an alternate ending is included that is less shallow than the one that made it to film, as well as handful of deleted scenes. "Classic Tale Retold" is a schmaltzy 10-minute promotional piece thinly veiled as your standard making-of featurette. "Creating the Perfect Beast" is a brief look at the film's unimpressive makeup effects. Lastly, Kristina and the Dolls' music video for "Be Mine" rounds out things.

Final Thoughts

Meat Loaf famously crooned that "two out of three ain't bad." Unfortunately for "Beastly" the same can't be said for one out of three. While the film is I dare say pleasant to look at and properly structured, the script it's structured around and the cast hired to read the lines written range from incompetent to embarrassing, with one or two hammy exceptions. "Beastly" is a waste of time that doesn't understand its source material and trivializes common moral lessons, resulting in yet another in a long line of teen oriented filmmaking that continues to sell kids on flashy garbage enabling a generation of moviegoers who don't know that movies can make you actually think. Skip It.

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