When a vain but popular high school boy named Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) pisses off a witch (Mary Kate Olsen), he ends up visually transformed as punishment and must find a girl to love him before the year is up. Enter the pretty, smart, motivated Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens). A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, based on the eponymous novel by Alex Finn, the best thing this movie has going for it is that it’s only 86 minutes long.
Okay, that might be a little bit of hyperbole. There are other things that are tolerable in this movie, but they are few and far between. The problem lies mostly with the fact that writer-director David Barnz caters so directly to the movie’s demographic (the tween and teen set who watch the CW’s programming with nary a trace of irony) that the movie never really becomes anything. There is no life given to any of the characters, and what’s more is that none of the situations they find themselves in are ever remotely believable. An example, if I might: at one point, Lindy is in peril at the hands of a drug dealer who demands money from her father, and Kyle swoops in (literally swoops) and takes care of business. I actually busted out a choke-laugh of disbelief.
For a movie that is supposed to be thick with witchcraft, there is very little magic to be found here. The cast, to its credit, is mostly talented but is given nothing to work with. Even Neil Patrick Harris as Kyle’s blind, snarky tutor, does little to elevate his scenes. There were multiple times during my viewing of this movie where I could sense the cast’s embarrassment of being associated with the film (this was never more clear than when Peter Krause was onscreen, miscast and uncomfortable–did he lose a bet? Owe a favor to someone?). Hudgens is adorable and smirks for the camera just fine. Pettyfer, for all his good looks, does an absolutely terrible American accent.
The thing is, everyone associated with the movie knows what the deal is with a movie like this. It’s not meant for adults–not really. It’s meant for those teens I mentioned at the beginning of the review. They’re the same ones who grew up watching High School Musical and consuming the brands that this (and other movies like it) place for optimal viewing opportunities. The movie is best viewed on a weekend afternoon, preferably when you’re hungover and there’s nothing else on.
Beastly is available on DVD now.