Movie Review - Beastly

Based on the 2007 novel by Alex Flinn, this modern-day, NYC re-telling of Beauty and the Beast doesn't even come close to the 1991, Oscar-winning, Disney version. The first problem is that I'm not convinced that Alex Pettyfer who stars as Kyle Kingson is all that good an actor. The second problem is the deviations that writer-director Daniel Barnz makes from Flinn's book make a ridiculous plot that much more implausible.

The basic plot is a rich boy mistreats a classmate who turns out to be a witch. As revenge, she casts a spell on the boy transforming him into a beast with the stipulation that he can return to normal if he can get a girl to say "I love you" to him within a fixed amount of time. Mary-Kate Olsen plays the witch, looking not that much different from one of the vampire teens from Twilight.

In the Disney movie, the rich guy is morphed into a hideous, horned, hirsute animal. Here, Kyle isn't made into some furry or ugly creature that needs to constantly cower in the darkness. In fact, instead of gaining hair or fur, Kyle loses his. Kyle's golden, shaggy locks disappear and all that remains is his pale white scalp. But, from Michael Jordan to Jason Statham, GQ magazine proved last year that bald men can be sexy.

Kyle also has scars put on his face and body by the witch, but, as Vanessa Hudgen's character, Lindy, says, "I've seen worse." Unfortunately, that one line undermines the entire film because it's true. Yes, while his scars, which include burns and deep cuts, are bad, they're minor when compared to the fact that he's mostly covered in tattoos on his head and torso that don't look any scarier than Mike Tyson's facial tattoo or for that matter the body art and body paint of many Native American, Pacific or even African tribes.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I thought Kyle in many ways looked better when he was a "beast" than when he was his so-called gorgeous and runway-model, poster boy self. When you start to root for the man-turned-monster to stay a monster and not the man, then I think possibly something went wrong. I know Pettyfer had to endure hours of makeup to get that appearance. I'm sorry, but he didn't endure enough, and the makeup artists didn't go far enough.

Essentially, this guy wasn't ugly enough. If his transformation had been the one in the Oscar-nominated District 9 (2009) or the transformation that Jeff Goldblum underwent in David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986), then that would have been vastly more powerful. If Barnz had been more faithful to Flinn's novel, that would have been vastly more powerful than the supremely watered-down version here.

Additional deviations that Barnz makes stretch contrivances past their snapping point. Somehow, Barnz has to get Kyle and Lindy living together. Flinn designs a ridiculous if slightly credible way to do that. How Barnz handles it on screen not only takes away what little credibility it had, but it's so awkwardly staged and so awkwardly acted that he makes it almost painful to watch.

I will say that Neil Patrick Harris, who plays a blind tutor, was a welcomed casting choice, a warmly welcomed one. Unfortunately, he couldn't save this pointless piece of theater.

One Star out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for crude comments and brief violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 26 mins.


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