Just Beastly! (The flick, that is)

Alex Pettyfer as the Beast, Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy.
Alex Pettyfer as the Beast, Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy.
Posted: March 04, 2011

Adapted from Alex Flinn's juvenile fiction bestseller, Beastly offers a thoroughly dopey reread of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, this one set in a New York private school modeled along the same lines (catty elitism, peer pressure, yada-yada) as the one in Gossip Girl.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then grossness must be, too, but it's sort of a joke to paste appliques, fake tattoos, and a few artfully designed scars on a guy - and, all right, maybe a few lumpy prosthetics - and call him horrific.

Yet that's what royally narcissistic high school hunk Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfer) is perceived to be after a goth princess casts a spell on him, transforming him into a "monster."

The curse-slinging "Frankenskank," as Kyle so charmingly dubs her, is played by one of the Olsen twins (Mary-Kate, for the record), who wears serious makeup and scrunches her face into expressions of profound peevedness. And so Kyle, who, in the clumsy, jump-right-into-it opening of Beastly has been elected president of the student body (his platform: "Should you vote for me just because I'm the rich, popular, good-looking guy? Hell yeah!"), slinks off to Brooklyn, where he's set up with a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) and a Jamaican housemaid (Lisa Gay Hamilton).

His rich dad (Peter Krause) is too appalled by his son's "aggressively unattractive" appearance to keep him at home. Or to even meet him for lunch.

The only way to break the spell is to find a girl who will love him as he is. Enter Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), who's all about substance over style, and who lets her hair get messy just to prove it. Kyle has a year to reverse the spell before his condition becomes permanent, and there's drama with a nasty drug dealer, and there are romantic misunderstandings and the fanciful makeover of some prime Brooklyn real estate along the way.

Pettyfer, the high-cheekboned alien hero of I Am Number Four, broods and pouts and runs around heroically, sometimes in a hoodie, sometimes shirtless. Hudgens, of High School Musical lineage, exudes cutesy warmth and wistfulness, and director Daniel Barnz, who did better with his first feature, Phoebe in Wonderland, moves things from Point A to Point F in barely competent music video style.

Sure, Beastly's underlying message is a worthy one, but by the time the film gets there the audience's ability to empathize will be sorely tested.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

 

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