Review- Beastly

Mary-Kate Olsen and Alex Pettyfer in Beastly (CBS Films)

Beastly is the kind of film that’s not going to waste your time to help you decide whether or not you’re going to enjoy it. This film starts with such a ridiculous, unrealistic and disingenuous tone that my mind was made up almost in record time, however, there is a point its trying to make it just goes about trying to make it with the subtlety of a roundhouse kick to the jaw. There is not a piece of the dialogue or acting within the first few minutes that I believe for a second. Whether it be the over-the-top-look-at-me-I’m-a-modern-day-Dorian-Gray dialogue by the film’s protagonist Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), the incredibly crass ‘Embrace the Suck’ slogan and the preposterous Hey-I’m-A-Witch acting and cinematography revolving the film’s antagonist, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen).

That’s just a small sampling of the ridiculousness that ensues in this film right off the bat. It’s hard enough to sell an audience on a Beauty and the Beast plot in the modern day when you set the film up with this lack of realism. The witch comments really aren’t a throwaway. The film wants to waste no time and get right into it and it’s very obvious the outcast character, Kendra, is actually a witch but it sacrifices any semblance of realism to do so.

The dialogue never really sparkles but really struggles in this portion of the film such that it’s painful to listen to. It’s extraordinarily hard to understand, get behind and in any way identify with these characters.

Things do improve from this pathetic start, however, not nearly by enough. Not in the slightest. An example would be that while the makeup and prosthetic work is rather good when looked at in isolation, within the context of this narrative it fails the film also. It doesn’t do enough to camouflage who this kid really is, as the love interest Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) is supposed to not be able to recognize him. Not only that but it virtually screams who he is by scrolling the words “Embrace” and “Suck” where his eyebrows used to be.

As if this wasn’t enough there are the other instances where the film decides to try our patience and and think logically far too much. There is a long conversation between Kyle and Lindy at a party where they do not look at each other, there is the fact that structurally Kyle’s face is the same as is his voice yet he is never recognized or suspected and Lindy believes his cover until he’s healed.

Even some of the better touches are counteracted by miscalculations such as when Kyle is trying to woo Lindy, and is of course trying to pick meaningful rather than expensive gifts, he gets her a case of Jujy Fruits. Yet, “How did you know I liked these enough to get me ten?” is a question that is never asked.

The one thing that consistently raises the level of this film ever so slightly are some of the performances. Mainly that of Neil Patrick Harris in a supporting role where he does his best to add true comic relief to the film. That being said Alex Pettyfer is also better with a more believable American accent than in I Am Number Four, he just has a lot less material to work with.

There isn’t a lot in terms of redeeming qualities in Beastly, which is even more unforgivable when you’re building the story on a tried and true template and at times makes it an infuriating and frustrating experience. It is likely to go down as one of the worst of the year.

2/10

Review- I Am Number Four

Alex Pettyfer and Dianna Agron in I am Number Four (Disney)

Most films that can be said to be bifurcated are strong in the first half and tail off towards the end. Few films fly in the face of the screenwriting axiom that first acts are easy and it’s keeping interest through the second act that is truly a challenge. I am Number Four does do that to an extent but it still fails to salvage itself.

It’s not as if the film doesn’t try, it most certainly does that. A lot of the fault is in trying too hard. It does a lot of legwork in the beginning to establish the players in this tale from John (Alex Pettyfer) to his protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), to Number 6 (Teresa Palmer) in small and mysterious, at the time, introductory scene, to Sam, the sidekick with a secret attachment to this world (Callan McAuliffe), Sarah, the love interest that tears at John’s world (Dianna Agron) to Mark (Jake Abel) Sarah’s ex and John’s earthly antagonist.

Not to mention the actual antagonists the Mongadorians, who come from a planet of extra-nostriled Voldemorts. While it’s a good thing that all these pieces do end up fitting the puzzle it takes too long to develop them and then display their purpose. Instead of locking these people into the drama in a meaningful way off the bat they all connect close together in a sort of domino effect that suddenly plunges the film into a hyper-drive from the second half through the end.

This film also leaves a lot details out and questions unanswered. It is ultimately hoping for and promising to answer them in a sequel but that’s really putting the cart before the horse. You can’t be so defensive of your story options in a sequel that you do the film at hand a disservice.

How this happens is that only one extra person of the chosen nine is found, Number 6, Numbers 5 and 7 thru 9 are a mystery. Sam who ends up being integral as his life has been directly affected by Mongadorians gets no closure and moves on with the tale into a supposed sequel. Sam’s character also illustrates another issue with this film in as much as he ends up being the most real, identifiable and well played character. This is great for Callan McAuliffe who gets a chance to prove himself in a bigger profile film than he did in last year’s Flipped, for the film, however, it’s kind of an issue when your male and female lead just look the part, say their lines, hit their marks and not much else is added to the equation through them.

Then, of course, this film also suffers from a mild case of Random Animal Syndrome. As the name suggests its where random animals make too big an impact on a film. First, there’s a gecko trailing John and Henri. We are left to surmise it becomes a dog. A dog who is not a dog rather because it’s rather easy to see early on that it’s a bit too smart and good at navigation to be a regular dog. Then we see what the dog becomes late for an awesome beast showdown, which I’ll admit is kind of cool and the CG is well done but it is slightly SyFy movie like.

There’s also a lot of information withheld not only from our protagonist but also from the audience. We already know this is a Chosen One(s) plot but what we need are the rules and a reason to root for this chosen entity. For any of these plots to work like they do in Star Wars or Harry Potter there needs to be some grounding. Some very strong attachment we can build with the protagonist so we can be truly invested in his/her plight. That doesn’t really exist here at least not in this incarnation of the tale.

I absolutely despise when reviewers get cutesy, so in closing, I just want to state for the record that I am not giving I am Number Four a four for that reason. As my rating scale indicates a score of 4/10 is “A film with a few mistakes too big to overlook.” There are definitely things to like about the film but there are too many things that stop it from getting going and leave you scratching your head. If you walked in halfway through the film you might love it until you saw the excruciatingly slow and un-illuminating first half.

4/10