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Beastly (PG-13)


03/10/11
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



A stuck-up nitwit learns about beauty-on-the-inside in Beastly, a remarkably stupid and inept retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” story.

Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is a horrible, despicable rich-boy moron who is somehow capable of being popular despite being openly, egregiously vain and inexplicably cruel. For some reason, he goes to a high school where he isn’t regularly punched in the gut, as he would be at most earth high schools, and where his classmates include Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), who appears to be a 20something angry fashion model. (And indeed Mary-Kate is nearly 25 and, even more than any of the cast of the original 90210, totally looks it. She is not “old” looking, per se, but just looks completely out of place, even in this ridiculously fake version of the teenage world.)

After he is pointlessly rude toward Kendra (who is, apparently, a witch), she curses him with ugliness — specifically, with a skin disease that looks like a crafter addicted to puffy paint and a tattoo-artist had a fight on his face. And also he’s made bald. And thusly will he stay if he can’t find someone, anyone, to say that they love Kyle, despite his bric-a-brac hideousness, within a year.

Because Kyle’s vain vain father (Peter Krause) is even vainer than he, Kyle is exiled from his fancy apartment in Manhattan to a big rambling house in, I think, Brooklyn where he is cared for by a Jamaican maid (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a blind tutor (Neal Patrick Harris — why, Doogie, why?). Sometimes at night, Kyle pulls on a hoodie and, hidden behind a helmet, motorcycles through city streets. This is how he comes upon Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a maiden in distress who also happens to be a former classmate he always liked but thought was too nerdy to date. In the world’s most contrived scene of street crime, she is knocked unconscious by the drug dealers trying to collect money from her addict father. Kyle steps in and saves her but not before Lindy’s father has committed a crime and put her in even more danger. In a ham-fisted attempt to update the fairy tale in a way that doesn’t include slavery, Lindy’s father repays Kyle for his silence in the matter by letting him “have” Lindy with the idea that she’ll be safer in the home of an unknown masked vigilante where the bad guys can’t find him.

Lindy thinks this story is just as BS-y as it sounds and angrily stomps into Kyle’s home — though she doesn’t know it’s him. Since the school thinks he’s away at rehab and Kyle’s afraid she could never love him if she knows what a jerkface he is under his puffy-paint-face, Kyle calls himself “Hunter” in her presence and sets about trying to woo her with candy and a greenhouse full of roses. But will all this kindness lead only to the friend-zone?

Beastly feels like a TV movie, randomly casted and haphazardly edited, that ended up in theaters as part of some “if you want X you have to run Beastly” deal. The movie starts by dropping you into the least convincing school government election plotline and then unfolds in a less sense-making manner from there. The acting is universally awful — from the (possibly mocking) hackiness of Neal Patrick Harris to the indifferent performance of Hudgens. Pettyfer, who is apparently being marketed as the new Taylor Lautner, is shockingly horrible. His “emotions” have no connection to the lines he’s speaking or where his character is in the plot. He delivers his dialogue as though he is hearing it for the first time in an earpiece and repeating it with no sense of context.

I can picture a delightful bit of cotton candy spun from the colored sugar that is the easy-pickings concept for Beastly. That what-could-have-been makes the charmless, amateurish mess of this movie even more painful to sit through.

F
Rated PG-13 for language including some crude comments, drug references and brief violence. Written and directed by Daniel Barnz (from novel by Alex Finn), Beastly is an hour and 35 minutes long and distributed by CBS Films.






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