Directed by Daniel Barnz, Written by Daniel Barnz and Alex Flynn (novel), 95 minutes, Rated PG-13.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
"Embrace the suck," pleads "Beastly" star Alex Pettyfer at the start of this "Twilight"-inspired retelling of "Beauty and the Beast." It's as if he's prepping the audience to either accept the film's many, many foibles or subject yourself to its ugly center.
The film, by all accounts, is all the suck director/screenwriter Daniel Barnz asks us to embrace. Its lazy scripting, wooden performances and shallow revising of the source material renders the once-energetic tale of beauty's inception into a dull melodrama, dragging its easily digestible themes across the coals and transforming them into an ugly mess.
Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), the vain, malicious, attractive, popular and any other cliché you could tie to his character, proves that beauty is more than skin deep when local witch Mary Kate Olson puts a hex on his beautiful blond head and turns him into a grotesque beast for one year--unless he can convince a woman to love him. So, after about six months of moping and pining after his neglectful father (Peter Krause), he manages to imprison his dream girl Lindy (Vanessa Hugens) in his house, under the guise of protecting her from her father's vengeful drug dealers. Actually, the film's suck is truly something to behold.
Regulating his cast and crew to the CW school of script writing and acting, Barnes gives his film surprisingly little to work with. Their delivery is wooden, but with name calling like "Franken skanks" and "Fatty cakes," who can blame them? The director focuses on creating the shallowest version of the beast possible and, as such, he succeeds in creating the shallowest version yet of the beloved material.
Though Pettyfer really isn't endowed with a good script or stable motivation, his performance drains whatever life the film has. However, this much emphasis shouldn't be on him anyway. Barnes mistakenly places all of the focus on the beast, when this is also the story of the woman who comes to love him.
Lindy is all but completely ignored until the third act--and even then, Barnes keeps her locked up in bland clichés about seeing inner beauty and helping the needy. Sure, these are pieces of Belle's character, but Barnes foolishly only tells about them and expects us to embrace the suck.
"Beastly" is a poor representation of its source material and creates a monster out of it its inherent themes. Barnes' scripting is DOA, and its laziness extends to almost all areas of the production, especially Pettyfer's plastic-looking make-up. The only surprise "Beastly" holds is its surprising lack of werewolves, which, given the source material, it should embrace with open arms.