Teenaged girls are the only ones likely to care for this modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. That’s your disclaimer. For those of us who have discerning tastes, the film is mediocre at best, but I imagine the teen demographic will find the movie charming.
Alex Pettyfer stars as Kyle, an unbelievably narcissistic and self absorbed high school student who eschews those who have the misfortune of not being good looking enough for his liking. Looks, money, and popularity are the things he deems most important in life. He’s a wretched human being suffering from a massive case of entitlement.
When we meet his father (played by Peter Krause), we see why Kyle has such shallow values. Dad is a preening news anchor with a bluetooth glued to his ear at all times. He has preached the gospel of good looks during Kyle’s entire life. The stagnant apartment they share in New York is devoid of charm; everything is white, and it reeks of wealth.
While Kyle is surrounded by all the material things one could ever desire, it is apparent that he yearns for some sort of relationship with his preoccupied father. The two reside with a live-in Jamaican maid named Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton), whom Kyle treats horribly.
Kyle has a few run-ins with a creepy goth girl from school who is a self proclaimed witch (Mary-Kate Olsen), and when she has finally had enough, she places a curse on Kyle. His face is horribly disfigured by deep gashes, open wounds, tattoos, and some odd metal design. He is given one year to find someone who will love him for the person he is inside (they must also declare their love) or he will remain disfigured forever.
His father is so disgusted that he dumps his freakish son at a new apartment, and leaves Zola to care for him. He also hires a blind tutor (played by Neal Patrick Harris) to home-school the boy. The first few months of isolation and despair allow Kyle to learn compassion for others. He befriends Zola and treats her with respect, and becomes friends with his tutor.
He also falls in love with Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a girl he wouldn’t have given the time of day before his transformation. Ironically, Lindy had a crush on Kyle, but has no idea that this disfigured man is him.
Through a series of truly ridiculous circumstances, Lindy comes to live with Kyle, Zola, and Will, so that she might be protected from some thugs who mean to bring her harm. A sappy romance ensues, but it is chaste and the film is innocuous.
The acting is all over the place in the film. Mary-Kate Olsen is terrifically wicked and fun to watch as she plays against type. I enjoyed Alex Pettyfer a lot more than I did in I Am Number Four, he seems like he was able to show a little emotion here (don’t mistake that for a ringing endorsement, though). Vanessa Hudgens and Peter Krause are serviceable, but the periphery supporting cast is flat out dreadful at times.
Neal Patrick Harris is a real treat here; he injects the film with much needed humor and life whenever he appears on screen.
Beastly suffers from a lazy script. This film had potential to be one that kids and adults alike could enjoy, but that’s not the film that materialized.
Little girls might swoon, but you will roll your eyes when the two break into a zoo at night with ease, and Kyle constructs a gigantic greenhouse filled with roses for Lindy. Only in the movies. Thankfully, the film runs under 90 minutes.
Beastly is a sugar-coated sap-fest, but you could expose your daughters to worse. At least there is valuable lesson about being kind to others, and beauty coming from within.