Beautician and the Beast is the prototypical example of a style of romantic farce that thrived in the 1990s, even using two particularly well-worn scenarios: "opposites attract" and "outsider cons his/her way into real/metaphorical royalty." But even though the setup is unremarkably ordinary, it's executed with a certain competence, occasionally rising to the level of contagious. Bringing her Nanny shtick to the big screen, but minimizing the nasally laughter to become a more credible romantic lead, Fran Drescher is actually pretty charming, almost to the point you'd understand why a stolid Eastern European dictator would melt in her presence. Timothy Dalton, in a rare post-Bond big screen performance, is pretty good as that dictator, though his Russian accent isn't a significant improvement from that attempted by a hundred other actors. What keeps the movie from being a full-on guilty pleasure is the couple noticeable ways it's not particularly competent -- or, at the very least, deviates from the prototypical structure viewers are programmed to expect. For one, the fact that Drescher's makeup artist is mistaken for a legitimate teacher gets very little comic mileage. It never becomes either an actual source of tension in the script, or something she tries very hard to cover up. Another thing that doesn't sit so well is the representation of the fictitious nation of Slovetzia. It's small enough that the entire country seems to consist of one downtown area, and everyone seems to know everyone else, yet it's big enough to get a front-page news story in USA Today. Then again, another distinguishing characteristic about movies like Beautician and the Beast is that details like these aren't supposed to matter. For the most part, they don't. The movie also doesn't matter much, but it's not a total waste of time, either.
by Derek Armstrong review