21 April 2011

BEASTLY- Review

So soon after Red Riding Hood, I find myself delving back into the Twilight zone for another teen-oriented, romantically updated fairytale. On paper, Beastly reads like a TV movie version of the story of Beauty and the Beast. Alex Pettyfer is the Beast, Vanessa Hudgens is the Beauty, and Neil Patrick Harris and Lisa Gay Hamilton round out the cast as the candlestick and the clock.

The Beast in this case is Kyle Kingson, an infuriatingly obnoxious little scrote who's supposed to have gotten the position of Green Party President at high school by sheer attractiveness. This provokes the wrath of conveniently placed Goth-y witch-type Kendra, and she curses Kyle with a spell that uglies him up. If he can't break the spell in a year, he'll look that way forever, and his only hope is the love of troubled teen Lindy.

On balance, it's not quite as shallow as it sounds. Except for the character of Kyle, who is exactly as shallow as he sounds, making him very difficult to root for him. Don't forget that Alex Pettyfer, lately of sci-fi Twilight surrogate I Am Number Four, is not the best of actors. The idea he could get elected to any role through his charisma is laughable, cos there's really none of it to be had. Wisely, the film soon buries him under some ugly make-up, which almost serves as a prosthesis for him to act properly.

Pettyfer isn't the only one who struggles, mind. You see Neil Patrick Harris floundering here as the comic relief, despite the fact there's nothing wrong with his delivery- just the dialogue he's given. The script, written by director Daniel Barnz, is pretty puny. There's no new ground to be broken by another film in the Twilight mold, and despite how recently Stephanie Meyer's books came around, it feels like we've had hundreds of them already. The weird thing is how much the film has to stretch itself to update the fairytale to a modern high school setting. Even Red Riding Hood had similar problems in a period setting, and arguably, Beastly has more work to do.

Those familiar with the story, through Disney or wherever, know that the cursed Beast was once a handsome and wealthy guy who still lives in a big castle, now transformed into a self-imposed prison. Belle, the titular Beauty, has to stay in said castle with him, and the reason why differs between adaptations. For Beastly, the castle is a penthouse apartment, and the reason for Lindy's house arrest there comes down to a contrived and ill-explained sub-plot involving her father and some criminals.

This eventually works itself into a substantial plothole, but one that you're not supposed to look too deeply into because it's just a fluffy teen romance. I'm all for films that appeal to an under-served demographic, but this one still feels slack, and somehow rushed. That's especially weird because of how the film was pushed back from last summer to avoid clashing with Zac Efron's Charlie St. Cloud. You know what though, it was still more enjoyable than Twilight.

Yeah, there are more unintentional laughs in Twilight, but there are also a metric fuckton of things that are wrong with the story and characters, particularly the character of baked potato-brained reader surrogate Bella Swan. Aside from a general sense of moneyed superficiality about Kyle that lasts all the way through his learning curve, there's little in this film that could either piss me off or send a bad message to the target audience. And it didn't leave me totally indifferent either- I doubt I'll remember it come the end of the year, but it's pretty harmless and pacifying. It could have gone darker and been a better film, but then it would cease to serve its purpose.

I can't deny that I expected Beastly to be one of those self-reviewing films where the title says it all. Instead, I was surprised to find Vanessa Hudgens taking that role when she first sees the fugly version of our leading titamaboob and lovingly proclaims "I've seen worse". The script isn't up to much, as you can see, but I appreciate that it's certainly more comfortable in itself than its main competitor at the moment, Red Riding Hood. Although I can only declare that I personally didn't enjoy the film much, I can still see it going over pretty well with the target audience.

Beastly is released in cinemas nationwide tomorrow.
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I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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