Beastly is like a train wreck you can't look away from. Knowing the movie is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a pair of teen lovers may prepare you to expect a certain amount of cheesiness, but you won't be prepared enough. Beastly excels at being ridiculous, and when you're not cringing, you're laughing. Sadly, the humor is rarely intentional.
Hotshot high schooler Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) has it all: looks, money, and popularity. The only thing he loves more than himself is putting others down. His oppressive bullying makes him the target of Mary-Kate Olsen's teen witch Kendra, who puts a spell on Kyle to teach him a lesson. Transforming his perfect face into a melange of scar tissue, tattoos, and open wounds, Kendra warns Kyle that he'll have to keep his new look forever unless he finds someone to love him. Enter Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), the impoverished scholarship student who sees behind Kyle's looks and becomes the key to releasing him from his ugly-face prison. Their love story has the potential to be sweet and disarming, but the nonsensical storytelling and subpar acting sabotage any chance at success. To find out why Beastly is so bad, just
The update of the Beauty and the Beast story is handled all wrong. Setting the movie in high school, where superficiality reigns, is a good start, but once Kyle's transformation begins, the plot becomes wildly unrealistic. Magic is an acceptable reason for some of the movie's elements, but the characters simply don't behave the way normal people would. For instance, Lindy is deposited into Kyle's care and shut away from the rest of the world, a big part of the Beauty and The Beast tale, but the way it happens is absurd. Throughout the film, important questions and plot holes are glossed over, while the silliest details end up directing the story.
The weak leading man is also a handicap. Pettyfer's acting is amateur, and his American accent constantly gets away from him. And while he seems comfortable playing the cocky, beautiful Kyle at the beginning of the film, he's all over the place as the ugly version of himself. He plays emo and tortured like an over-eager student in acting class. Hudgens isn't that much better as Kyle's soulful crush, but in her defense, the writing is so spectacularly terrible that it's hard to imagine anyone coming off great.
Unsurprisingly, Neil Patrick Harris is a delight, because he appears to be having way too much fun with his blind tutor character. However, playing blind doesn't appear to bring him any sort of acting challenge, because he's essentially doing How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson with a disability. Olsen handles the film's campiness with ease as well; her character is outrageous, and like Harris, the fun she's having onscreen with dialogue, makeup, and wardrobe makes her highly watchable. In fact, watchability is the best compliment I can give Beastly. It's over the top, but you're never bored. Whether you want to be entertained by nonsense is up to you.