Mark Reviews Movies

BEASTLY

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Daniel Barnz

Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Peter Krause

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for language including crude comments, brief violence and some thematic material)

Running Time:  

Release Date: 3/4/11


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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 3, 2011

He loves her so much that he follows her around at night, smiling as she starts singing along to the music in her headphones or feeding the homeless around the corner from her house. He stares at her through her window as she lies in bed. He blackmails her father with the threat of a murder rap as a way to get her to stay with him.

Is this what passes for romance nowadays?  Such behavior used to be things to land someone a restraining order (That last one might carry jail-time), but, oh, the times they are a-changing.

Beastly is a creepy take on the old story of Beauty and the Beast, painting the former as a nave waif incapable of even common reasoning and the latter as a predatory stalker. It would be disturbing if it weren't so incompetently hilarious.

The problems start almost immediately, as we are thrust into the presence of Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), a narcissistic, privileged jerk among narcissistic, privileged jerks. He's running for the head of a Green committee at his high school (an outlandishly opulent building, where high-definition monitors litter the towering halls) on the platform of not caring a lick for the environment but being the most handsome boy in school. Writer/director Daniel Barnz tries too hard and succeeds far too well in making us despise Kyle and later only furthers our first impression with his protagonist's shamelessly and selfishly manipulative ways disguised as true love.

He's elected (His schoolmates love his brazenly antagonistic attitude toward them all) but draws the ire of Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), nicknamed "the witch" because, well, she is one. Kendra curses Kyle to an existence of stylish repulsiveness. He awakens to discover his face and body covered in tattoos (including his eyebrows replaced with the words "embrace" and "suck"), metallic paint, and a few deep cuts to go along with a bald head.

His only escape is to find someone who will say "I love you" to him within a year or spend the rest of his life wearing hooded sweatshirts and moping around the new, riverside house his rich father (Peter Krause) buys to keep the kid out of sight. Fortunately, before his transformation, there was a girl named Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) he met once who could tolerate his horrible personality.

Hence Kyle, calling himself "Hunter" (a name perhaps too on target to his new self), stalks Lindy and eventually saves her from her drug-addicted father's (Roc LaFortune) encounter with a gun-wielding dealer. Kyle coerces dad, who's killed his hook-up, to let Lindy stay with him. It's for her protection, after all.

The setup, beyond the inherent convolution to force the two leads together, is a false one. It's one thing for Lindy to genuinely fall for a guy who just happens to stylishly disfigured, but it's an entirely different one for Kyle to seek her out specifically with the intention of making her fall for him and manipulate events to move her in that direction. Case in point: Building a greenhouse (with no experience and using only a For Dummies book, no less) as a sincere gesture with the thought that she might like flowers is sweet; checking her online profile to see that she loves "amazy" roses and then building a greenhouse is just downright repugnant.

Kyle's maid (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and blind, master-dart-thrower tutor (Neil Patrick Harris, the only intentional comic role in the movie overshadowed by the unintentional ones) urge him on, apparently unaware of what he's actually doing to win her over. At least the discomfort is kept at bay by stiff line readings, shoddy editing (Winter starts twice), and the most gloriously ridiculous musical choice in many a year ("I think I'm falling in love with you," the letter he writes her reads, after which the music literally echoes that sentiment).

There are only two logical ways for Beastly to end. Taking it as a given that she will say those three small words, he will either laugh in her face and run away, or, when she discovers he's been lying to and using her this whole time, she will slap him in the face and storm off in a justified rage. Sad to say, the movie does not follow logic.

Copyright 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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