Saturday, March 05, 2011

FILM REVIEW: Alex Pettyfer & Vanessa Hudgens's "Beastly"

In the teen fantasy romance, Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens play the real life version of Beauty and the Beast. After screwing with the wrong Wiccan (Mary-Kate Olsen), the obnoxious, insensitive popular kid Kyle (Alex Pettyfer from Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker) is cursed to look as ugly on the outside as he is on the inside, unless he can find someone who loves him unconditionally. If a year should pass before he does, he'll be stuck with scars and animated tribal tattoos all over his bald head, face, and arms forever.
The key to recreating the magic of that Disney fairytale is to show how the Beauty gradually tames the Beast. Given the preposterous manner in which this Beast manages to imprison this Beauty (Vanessa Hudgens)—brokering a deal with her drug addict father to allow him to protect her from the brother of the man her dad accidentally murdered—it's hard to believe she'll ever have any interest in helping him. His failure to woo her with gifts and riches gives way to an education of what's truly valuable. He learns not only to reassess his understanding of the world, but to also be selfless, despite the fact that the only reason she's with him is because of his selfish desire to be cured by her.
Pettyfer was given the task of making us hate him and then root for him. But it was a little difficult to gauge whether his desire to learn poetry for her, build a gazebo for her, and buy a box of her favorite candy was because he really did feel this nervous and insecure desire for her acceptance or if he was just desperate to be attractive again. It isn't until he is rudely awoken by the realization that his efforts to be liked by his father and friends are pointless that he starts to seem genuinely interested in the one person who does like him. He starts to see his nanny Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton from "Men of a Certain Age") as more than someone who is paid to do and not speak. And he starts to care more about helping people, like his blind tutor Will (Neil Patrick Harris), than he does about being helped by them.
Pettyfer has proven to have a knack for playing bad boys and Hudgens is improving at playing more than just cavity-inducing sweet characters. The best performance, however, that essentially saves the film is Harris's. He added some much needed levity to an often depressing and dark tale.

Overall, Beastly would make for a decent rental if you're a fan of fairytale endings.

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