“Beastly” puts a modern high school twist on the timeless love story of a beautiful girl falling for the seemingly monstrous boy. Despite starring big names like Mary-Kate Olsen, Vanessa Hudgens and Neil Patrick Harris, “Beastly” falls flat.
Alex Pettyfer, who made his big premiere in “I Am Number Four,” plays Kyle, a pretty boy with an ugly attitude. When Kyle humiliates gothic “witch” Kendra (Olsen) in public, she places a curse on Kyle, giving him scars, tree-like tattoos and skin disfigurements that last until he can get a girl to fall in love with him. Kyle has one year to succeed, otherwise he will be ugly forever.
Appalled, Kyle’s father locks him away in a Brooklyn apartment with Jamaican housekeeper Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and blind tutor Will (Harris). Romantic interest Lindy (Hudgens) comes to live with Kyle, needing his protection after her father murders a drug dealer. What unfolds is an uncharmed, typical love story — anger and bitterness followed by instantaneous love.
Though Harris nails jokes in almost every scene, the rest of the acting is far from extraordinary. Playing a good-looking yet stale character, Pettyfer’s immaturity shows in many of the beginning scenes. He only fully embraces his character when the tattoos and metal are added to his face, using his disfigurement to learn about himself and land the girl. Hudgens plays the same naive character she did in all three of the “High School Musical” movies and unfortunately doesn’t play Lindy any better than she did before.
Acting aside, the visuals in “Beastly” almost make up for some of Pettyfer’s cheesy lines. Kyle’s transformation includes stunning visual effects with bright, quick-moving lights and bold colors.
With awkward dialogue and lackluster performances, this high school tween romp feels more like someone put a curse on the film itself. It’s hard to imagine how the filmmakers missed the point of this transformation story, leaving the lesson without a true resolution. Sure, the message is a worthy one, but by the time the film gets there, the audience can no longer empathize.
Though director Daniel Barnz tries to remake this tale of princesses and happy endings with a darker edge, “Beastly” falls short without the magic and spirit of classic fairy tale films.
“Beastly” was written and directed by Daniel Barnz and adapted from the novel by Alex Flinn.
2 out of 4 stars