Beastly (2010) - Sweet Contemporary Re-telling of 'Beauty and the Beast'
Even with good looks and charm with every earthy comfort at ones fingertips does not make a likable person. That is the working idea behind the teen movie, Beastly. It probably won’t appeal to a wider audience than teenagers (for most it will be brushed aside as an angst-driven story with some pretty faces and young Hollywood starlets who might not have real acting chops), but what everyone should recognize is its message about vain beauty.
Leading a charmed life is not just something Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) takes for granted; it's something he demands. With an attitude to match, Kyle doesn’t treat anyone with respect. His bid for class president results in his asking one of the class outcasts to be his date for a school dance. But during that dance, the truth is revealed. He only asked Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) as a ploy to further humiliate her. Long rumored to be a witch, Kendra’s reason for accepting Kyle’s invitation was to give him a second chance, instead she shows Kyle firsthand her wrath. Gone are his blonde locks and picture-perfect face. His physical appearance reflects the ugliness inside. He's given a year to undo the curse – find someone to truly love him as he is or remain so forever…
Shuttering himself away with only a housekeeper and blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris), fate brings Lindy into his life. Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) is a good student on scholarship with a determined nature. When Kyle arranges for her to live in his home, his attempts to romance her go rejected, it isn’t until he sheds his selfless nature that he can really begin to love without condition.
The tale as old as time is re-invented in this adapted flick. Disney has a classic with their animated children’s movie. Before that there was a cult classic TV series, and following the 1991 animated flick, various stories took inspiration from it. With exception to a few missteps, Beastly is a beautiful fairy tale with darker undertones, giving the story a realistic bent, and also perhaps a wider appeal to adults. Fortunately a genuine redeeming light in the movie is the relationship between Kyle and Lindy. It’s sweet and innocent, while the romantic gestures Kyle loses himself in are all to win her heart. Each is sure to make us sigh with the sense of old fashion romance.
Kyle’s journey to true love is less shallow than I suspected. His motivations may begin selfishly, but eventually he learns to care not out of necessity but affection. No matter what critics said, I thought Alex gave a terrific performance in this regard. The character is conflicted; he isn’t all together; the transformation feels organic. Likewise, Vanessa gave a beautiful compelling performance. If anything, she was the one a little stilted. Despite this and the critics’ attempts to always pin her break-out role (High School Musical) on her, she is proving them wrong.
The script does a good job of packing the original story into a mere eighty-six minutes, including a rose (that has nothing to do with measuring the time Kyle has left) and a reason for Lindy to live with Kyle. I would have liked to see the characters aged up, but I think filmmakers thought setting it in a trendy teenage scene would be easier to manipulate the story to their advantage (i.e., working with a vain hero). Kyle’s change of heart feels genuine, as does Lindy’s initial acceptance of him although the ending is kind of “sudden.” Nonetheless for those of us looking beyond the surface, the movie has some beautiful moments, and it offers some honest lessons of beauty being only skin deep – and they are lessons that lead to genuine transformations. ♥
(With a PG13 rating, most teens can enjoy this but… Various terms are used that are crude with specific meanings to today’s average teen. “Suck” is an expression used and a guy’s on-line profile claims hobbies as “anything bangable.” Some immodest clothing is present while two parties show teens out to have a good time; making out, etc. One man is shot and killed, another is a drug addict. Profanity includes sh*t, a**, and a few misuses of the Lord’s name.)