With the success of the Twilight franchise, there was bound to be another hormone-laden supernatural teen lust-fest on the Hollywood horizon, so it's no surprise that Beastly, based on the novel by Alex Flinn, is the latest film to capitalize on the impossibly chiseled antihero who falls for the cute virginal high school student -- only this time instead of vampires and werewolves, we have a somewhat deformed tattooed monster who manages to be both obnoxious and kind of hot. The film is a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, and despite the potential a premise like that presents, writer/director Daniel Barnz (Phoebe in Wonderland) allows the film to go completely off the rails with a slew of cheesy montages, bad dialogue, and unintentional laughs.
The story centers on Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), a good-looking narcissistic high school student with a major mean streak. He runs with the "beautiful people" and manages to piss off Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), the resident goth girl, who dabbles in the dark arts. Kendra casts a spell on Kyle, who physically transforms into a grotesque monster and is exiled by his father (played by Peter Krause) -- exile, in this instance, being a Brooklyn Heights brownstone -- with only his housekeeper, Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton), and private tutor, Will (Neil Patrick Harris), to keep him company. In true fairy-tale fashion, in order to break the spell Kyle needs a girl to tell him she loves him. The girl in question is Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a brainy misfit who, through an unbelievable series of contrivances, is forced to live in Kyle's attic. But can Lindy look past Kyle's hideous exterior before his transformation is permanent?
The short answer is yes. However, sitting through all the absurdities to get to the happy ending is quite a chore, especially when Barnz offers no life to any of the characters, nor does he make their situations the least bit believable. Pettyfer gives a stiff and robotic performance that lacks the sensitivity necessary for the monstrous role, while Vanessa Hudgens is likable yet hasn't been able to shake the whole cutesy Disney child actress thing from her High School Musical days. There are some definite "aww" moments between Kyle and Lindy, but those moments are few and not enough to plug the holes of this sinking ship.
Unfortunately, supporting cast members Lisa Gay Hamilton and Neil Patrick Harris are lost in the rubble. Harris' talent is wholly wasted here as he is relegated to quick one-liners and breezes in and out of scenes without the least bit of substance to cling to, and Hamilton -- with an almost convincing Jamaican accent -- spouts words of wisdom that just plain fall flat. Despite all of Beastly's problems, the Twilight crowd, or anyone who saw Pettyfer in the recent sci-fi flick I Am Number Four, will most certainly flock to this film. Still, the best thing about Beastly is that it's only 86 minutes, and sadly, even that seems a bit too long.