May. 15, 2013 - Issue #917: The Roadtrip Issue
BeastlyIt may seem a backhanded compliment, but Beastly isn't nearly as hideous or immature as you might expect of an updated fairy-tale set amongst slick NYC high-schoolers and advertising one teen idol, one beefcake and one former teen idol to its target market. At a ball, after Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) momentarily sees through the self-absorbed, vain mask of Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), the witchy Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) curses Kyle into looking ugly after he purposely humiliates her. Only an "I love you" from a girl within a year will lift the curse.
Based on Alex Flinn's 2007 novel-take on Beauty and the Beast, the movie does have our modern-day beast show the depth of his social stigma by deactivating his social-network account and his belle realizing who he is thanks to a ringing cellphone. But some snappy pacing and hints of pain throbbing beneath the cool sarcasm of teens manage to push much of Beastly past its skin-deep pandering to a teen demographic.
The pandering's in the soundtrack—an emo song or pop ballad overscore any glimmer of romance. And when the fairy-tale bubble (mostly in the townhouse that Kyle's news anchor father has exiled him to) is burst to let in some real life, especially in a back-alley scene of a crime, the movie gets shaky. Kyle's two housemates—a Jamaican immigrant housekeeper and a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris)—end up seeming like social-realist and comic-relief sidekicks, respectively.
But the story moves along briskly while suggesting the breezy narcissism of a strutting, self-styling, tele-communicating high-school world. It traces some of the emotional scars that Kyle and others are masking with their "whatever" aloofness and "too cool for this" sarcasm. Beastly never does fill out Kyle's character, though—he's even inexplicably romance-disabled, perhaps to justify the movie stepping in to offer visual clichés: a rose garden, a lakeside sunset, a kiss in front of the whole school. This 21st-century fairy tale doesn't wilt, but it's not quite refreshed, either.
Opens Now Playing
Directed by: Daniel Barnz
Written by: Barnz, Alex Flinn
Featuring: Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer, Mary-Kate Olsen
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