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Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Neil Patrick Harris, Mary Kate Olsen, Peter Krause
Director: Daniel Barnz
Seventeen year old Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is the spoiled, shallow and incredibly popular prince of his high school kingdom. Entirely captivated and empowered by his own physical appearance, Kyle foolishly chooses Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), a goth classmate rumored to be a witch, as his latest target for humiliation. Unfazed by his cruel behavior, Kendra decides to teach him a lesson - she transforms him into someone as unattractive on the outside as he is on the inside. Now he has one year to find someone who can see past the surface and love him, or he will remain “Beastly” forever. His only hope, an unassuming classmate he never noticed named Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), may be his best chance to prove that love is never ugly.
Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) and Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) star in Beastly for CBS Films, the film division within CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS). Mary Kate-Olsen (New York Minute), Peter Krause (“Parenthood”), LisaGay Hamilton (“Men of a Certain Age”) and Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) co-star. Daniel Barnz (Phoebe In Wonderland) directed the project which will make its theatrical debut in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico on March 4, 2011.
Susan Cartsonis (No Reservations, Aquamarine, What Women Want) produced through her company, Storefront Pictures. Roz Weisberg and Michael Flynn are executive producers. In addition to his role as director, Barnz wrote the screenplay, which is based on the Alex Flinn novel of the same name.
Ultimately, the romantic/fantasy film, “Beastly,” is a modern remake of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story line. The film is written and directed by Daniel Barnz, which is based on the novel of the same name written by Alex Flinn in 2007. Both the book and film are primarily aimed at the tween market; those too old for Disney cartoons, yet too young for “Sex and the City.”
As the film opens, we’re treated to flashy scenes of cool kids sauntering about Buckston Academy without a care. “Their too cool for school attitude” is complete with hip lingo, which floats about the hall ways from teen to teen like spores. Even the opening song “Vanity” performed by Lady GaGa suggests a chic atmosphere. Instantly I knew I was watching a movie primed for today’s youth. Initially, I held off on wanting to see this movie altogether, but I thought, what the heck I’ll give it a shot you never know. Well, I’ll cut right to the chase and give you my honest opinion about “Beastly.” The few things I did like about this movie wasn’t enough to keep my interest long enough to care what happens. One, I liked how the story was presented, with young fresh faces gracing the screen. And two, I like the fact that there was a tale with a message, though the moral of the story was quite obvious.
Unfortunately, the plot, as it turns out, wasn’t what I expected. Viewing the advance screening with Sidewalks Entertainment producer / host Richard R. Lee, we both agreed that the pacing felt rushed and wasn’t firmly grounded with more realistic situations, such as how Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) landed up living with the mysterious Kyle/Hunter (Alex Pettyfer). Personally, I felt there weren’t any real emotional anchors to bind the two characters together; therefore, the romance didn’t fully materialize between Kyle and Lindy. Since I've never read the novel, I’m sure it goes into greater detail about the whole affair, which alas didn’t make it on screen. As a whole this pseudo love story serves as a fluff piece, which I believe was created for the two attractive teens to spend face time in front of the camera together. At only an hour and a half running time, the filmmakers should have extending the time limit needed to develop these attributes.
I mentioned above that the fresh talent kept “Beastly” from becoming stiff and boring. I felt Pettyfer (a recent Sidewalks guest for his other film opening, “I Am Number Four”) gave a proper performance as the pompous, narcissistic rich, seventeen-year-old Kyle Kingson (and his alter-ego Hunter). I liked the way he brought the character to life with his relentlessness and volatile energy. Hudgens is convincingly adorable, yet she’s not the push over type of adorable most people are used to. She also manages to inject a little spunk her role as Lindy.
Joining the main cast is How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris, who plays blind tutor Will Fratalli. His character not only tutors Kyle in his academics, but in his personal life as well. I enjoyed Harris’ straight man routine when it came to providing advice to Kyle. He delivers his shtick with such a carefree attitude; I couldn’t but to chuckle every time he opened his mouth. Lisa Gay Hamilton plays the family’s house keeper, who gives a spot on Jamaican accent, and her character provides Kyle with the emotional support he needed through out the film. Parenthood’s Peter Krause plays Rob Kingson, Kyle’s father. There is a definite cold blooded tone to Krause’s character as he appears to be a caring father on the outside, although he’s just as shallow as his son on the inside. It’s nice to see a grown up Mary-Kate Olsen on the screen once again, this time as the character Kendra the witch, who curses Kyle with the mark of the beast. Kendra is dark and Gothic looking, which is a big departure from the kiddy roles she and twin sister Ashley (Full House) are used to doing.
Overall, “Beastly” is a “Twilight”-impostor that tries to ride the coat tales of the new emerging youth/young adult market of romance films. Although it has the look and feel of something substantial, underneath it all, there’s not much to the plot. And compared to the “Twilight” trilogy, it’s really a light weight. I just wish there was more substance here, and unfortunately there wasn’t. Sadly that's when the fantasy died for me.
J.P. Langston is a member of "Sidewalks Entertainment" team primarily as a videographer. He loves movies, especially sci-fi horror and action comedies. Some of his favorite films include "Blade Runner" "The Matrix Trilogy," The (original) "Star Wars," "Equilibrium," "Serenity," "Kill Bill Vols 1 and 2," "Appleseed," "Unbreakable" and "Sin City." He has a large DVD collection, which is still growing. Since reviewing films for "Sidewalks," he has been expanding his palette for all types of films.
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