This reinterpretation of Beauty and the Beast, set in a high school scenario is presumably tooled to appeal to the ‘Twilight’ generation, and in many ways it hits the right notes. There’s a good-looking cast (aside from the obvious disfigurement that Alex Pettyfer’s character suffers), supernatural elements, a story of love triumphing over adversity, some funny moments and a central moral.
So how did it all go so wrong? Few would claim the Twilight films are great cinema – they’re reasonably entertaining and appeal to many people, but suffer from corny dialogue and plotting problems. Yet Beastly makes Twilight look like a magnum opus. In the opening sequence, in which Alex Pettyfer’s reprehensible narcissistic douche torments fellow classmates and struts around the hallways, the characters are so thinly drawn I’m surprised they show up on screen.
Pettyfer is the good-looking, arrogant, Big Man on Campus with Secret Hidden Pain, his love interest Vanessa Hudgens is a scholarship student from a poor background who knows the True Meaning Of Beauty, and so on. After the camembert opening, as Kevin (Pettyfer) actually puts his face on, the film picks up pace, and is much more watchable as a result, albeit with predictable consequences (SPOILER ALERT: He learns that looks aren’t everything, gets the girl and is cured).
Still, Pettyfer is so astonishingly wooden that unless he’s being intense, Kevin is hard to take seriously. Similarly, the usually reliable Hudgens (at least for tween films) falls flat, and other details such as the weirdly racist depiction of Kevin’s maid, and the lack of explanation for supernatural events in the film serve to jolt the audience out of any involvement in the story.
Much credit must go to Neil Patrick Harris (who should fire his agent), making the best of a bad script, delivering killer lines and characterization. He earns Beastly the star, but can’t save it.