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.