Saturday, July 09, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #43 Beastly

No book vs movie on this one, so I'm sure I'm missing elements that are in the original novel by Alex Flinn that may have worked better for me, but I didn't find enough new in this retelling of Beauty and the Beast to make me seek out the book.

Though I've always liked fairytale retellings, it was the visuals that drew me to Beastly. One of my favorite horror comics from years ago was a haunted house story set in the penthouse of an abandoned NYC skyscraper (I really want to say it was a DC comic, and published before 1976) so when I saw the main character, Kyle, living on his own in an empty but well appointed apartment after his transformation, I was sold. Add in the rooftop greenhouse filled with roses and I am there. Extra points for the makeup artists who worked on this movie, but....

If the entire point of the story is for Kyle to be transformed from a traditionally handsome blond teen to something, well, beastly, what we see above does not qualify that. Kyle's search to find a young woman who found him appealing might have been easily solved by visiting an alternative club. A few piercings and tattoos do not a beast make, but it certainly is an intriguing image. Maybe it's my own taste or maybe Alex Pettyfer's bone structure, but I couldn't find Kyle's appearance beastly, which did affect my enjoyment of the story. Similarly, Mary-Kate Olsen's makeup as Kendra struck me as having more gothic flair than anything that would attract ridicule. Vanessa Hudgens' presentation as heroine, Lindy, doesn't strike me as a girl who would go unnoticed by someone who values physical beauty, but again, maybe this is my personal taste, and I'm certainly not a teenage boy, wealthy or otherwise.

The story is pretty straightforward to those familiar with Beauty and the Beast, and translates well to the modern setting, especially with the hero starting out as a prince of his world - the handsome, popular big man on his high school campus. Hubris is his downfall, and Kendra uses his beastly transformation to teach him a lesson about inner beauty, which he does learn, hitting expected story points along the way.

Neil Patrick Harris ran away with this movie with his portrayal of Will, the blind tutor hired to oversee Kyle's schooling. Paying a character with a physical challenge can be, well, challenging for an actor, but as always with Mr. Harris, well played. I would have happily watched another two hours of his character's story, which brings me to the ending.

While we have a classic story here, with certain elements the viewer is going to expect; Kyle's redemption, hero winning love of heroine, etc, and those all delivered, plus a chilling something extra of Kendra ending up as Kyle's snotty father's new assistant (we all know what's ahead for dad, in that case) other elements fell flat. The resolution between Kyle and Lindy felt rushed, and I wasn't sure what the future would hold for a couple this young. Are they each other's one true love or is this something that will play out and they go their separate ways when college begins? Will's regaining his sight, as well as the out of nowhere immigration status change for the housekeeper's entire family seemed tacked on and wouldn't have changed the rest of the story if those elements were removed.

All in all, I'm glad I watched Beastly, and I would consider watching it again, but most likely stick to the scenes that affected me most: Kyle's "embrace the suck" speech; the empty apartment montage and the visuals of the greenhouse. Okay, and scenes with Neil Patrick Harris or Mary-Kate Olsen. 80s child stars for the win. I would be interested in seeing Alex Pettyfer in something else, as I'd love to see what he does with different material. Recommendations welcome.

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