Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Daniel Barnz


Arrogant high school student Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is too busy being vain to care about how he makes other people feel. He knows he looks good, and he's not afraid to be obnoxious about it. When he tangles with a witch called Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) she curses him with ugly, giving him a year to find someone to love him or else he will have to stay that way forever.

In Beastly the interpretation of ugly is mild, to say the least. Pettyfer gets a few scars and facial tattoos, metal in odd places, baldness, and some lumps and bulges, but the effect is more like an overenthusiastic rocker than the Elephant Man. This makes him seem whiny when he complains about how hideous he's become. There are plenty of shots of him with his shirt off while he writes letters so we can see he's still toned and fit. He's more like an alternative lifestyle guy than a Beast, slightly below Beauty's usual standard but nothing too scary.

Kyle hides away because he's afraid his former friends won't accept him, and he's shunned by his self-obsessed celebrity father. The only people who come to his apartment at first are Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and Will (Neil Patrick Harris). Zola is a domestic worker who wants a green card so she can see her kids again, whilst Will is Kyle's sharp-tongued tutor. But the new object of Kyle's affection is a smart young woman he barely noticed in his handsomer days, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens). But he despairs at getting her to ever look twice at him in his current state.

The plot moves in a linear and unashamedly obvious way, bringing Kyle and Lindy into each other's lives with some scarcely credible hoodlums and a bit of gun-waving. The roles of the actors in the first part of the movie are crude, they're mere one-dimensional stereotypes. But as the love story develops Kyle learns to be more sensitive, and his character gets a bit more nuanced, although that's not saying much.

For a story about ugliness there's quite a lot of eye candy in Beastly, including a rose motif that leads up to a very pretty montage later in the story. It's a sweet tale about a young man learning to be less superficial, but the sappy tone will put off a lot of people and I think it could have done with more acid. Will is funny, but he doesn't get enough lines, and Kendra is pretty reasonable and unthreatening for a witch.

The story is coherent, and the pace isn't actually very slow. But it's wetter than the Pacific and for that reason it can seem to drag on, especially as it's extremely obvious where the plot is heading and it never deviates from its course. There's even a scene where Will mimes throwing up because of something Kyle says to Lindy. It's an entirely reasonable response to this sugar-coated mush.

19th September 2011

Film Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Films


Classification: 12

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson