Beastly: A Tale as Old as Time, Updated
- Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 3 Mar
DVD Release Date: June 28, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: March 4, 2011
Rating: PG-13 (for language including some crude comments, drug references and brief violence)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Run Time: 95 min.
Director: Daniel Barnz
Actors: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris
Privileged, popular, perfect Kyle is living proof that his mantra “Beautiful people get it better” is true . . . at least, for a little while. Kyle is all things gorgeous on the outside, but cold, proud, and full of anger on the inside. He comes by it naturally—Kyle’s dad is an image-obsessed news anchor who can’t be bothered to get off the phone long enough to hold a conversation with his son. Despite his ugly interior, most people take Kyle at face value. That’s about to become a big problem.
In a tantrum after his ego takes a beating, Kyle invites the “weird girl” at his ritzy private school to a dance—then proceeds to publicly humiliate her in a particularly ugly way. Bad move, Kyle. As the saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That’s especially true in high school, and even more so when the scorned “woman” happens to be a witch.
Mary-Kate Olsen is perfectly cast as the eerily stylish Kendra. She proceeds to put a curse on young Kyle, turning him into a tattooed, scarred freak as “aggressively unattractive” outside as inside. His only hope of ever looking normal again, Kendra tells him, is to find someone who will love him—and say so—despite his looks.
Like that’s going to happen. Kyle’s own father is so horrified by his son’s appearance that he ships him off to exile (in a Brooklyn brownstone) with their housekeeper and a blind tutor for company. Neil Patrick Harris plays Will, the smartmouth tutor who doesn’t let his disability keep him from much. One moviegoer said on the way out of the theater, “Harris stole the show.” He certainly got many of the best lines, both sincere—“It’s not about how others look at me, it’s about how I look at myself” —and funny, though many of those were too coarse to repeat here.
Of course, this is a romance so there has to be a heroine. After the manner of fairy tales, Lindy is an honest, hard-working girl from the wrong side of the tracks who tries to look after her drug-addict dad. She’s at Kyle's and Kendra’s elite school on a scholarship, and he actually deigns to exchange a few words with her before his fall from grace. Vanessa Hudgens has a slightly quirky girl-next-door appeal that’s nicely suited to Lindy’s brainy beauty.
Later, stuck in his elegant prison—his classmates think he’s in rehab—Kyle becomes mildly obsessed with Lindy. He does a little stalking of the innocent teenage variety, which leads to a series of events that eventually land Lindy in Kyle’s Brooklyn home. (It’s a more innocent set-up than that sounds.) She doesn’t recognize him, of course, and he changes his name to keep his identity secret. Could she be the one to release Kyle from the spell? The ending may never really be in doubt, but that won’t keep viewers from enjoying the story. The film’s pacing helps, it zips right along and includes plenty of humor to balance the sweetness.
Alex Pettyfer, also currently starring in I Am Number Four, brings real depth to his role as the “beastly” Kyle. His journey from complete jerk to decent guy is a slow and complicated one, but he sheds his layers in a realistic and relatable way. His comic timing is good, too—you can’t help but laugh at the poor boy and his awkward attempts to attract the lovely Lindy.
Other notable performances include Lisa Gay Hamilton as Zola, the housekeeper with a heart who manages to avoid becoming a cliché.
The film’s one big flaw was its language; vulgarities of the high school locker room variety were a constant thread. Other than the “did you really have to say that?” moments, it’s a charming romance with a terrific message. Beastly is a sweet story wrapped in a prickly shell—much like its main character, the wrapping doesn’t really reflect the substance inside.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Lindy’s dad is shown in a drug buy and his addiction is an important, if off-stage, part of the plot.
- Language/Profanity: Although the Lord’s name is not taken in vain, the entire film is so riddled with foul language of the locker room variety that it was impossible to keep score. Su-- is a particular favorite (“Don’t embrace the su—“ is Kyle’s motto), but as- (often paired with “hole” and “wipe”), bi---, bull----, and the like are a large part of the vocabulary.
- Sex/Nudity: This is a movie about beauty and the opening minutes are packed with suggestive images of the worldly variety: Kyle is shown working out in his underwear, multiple suggestive images of scantily-clad models on billboards. There is some kissing but no sex. Will recalls his school friends losing their virginity at age fifteen.
- Violence: Kyle scuffles with a couple of drug dealers but it’s not graphic. There is an off-screen shooting/murder; the body is shown briefly.
- Witchcraft: It’s a modern retelling of a fairy tale, so one character is a witch. She casts a spell on Kyle and later produces other magical results, though the “how” of that is only hinted at.