Beastly by guest reviewer, Susan Graham

12 Mar

So, this will be my first review for Lara and the Reel Boy, and I want to start off with a bang. That’s why today I put on my white tights with blue flowers, my unicorn t-shirt and my Velcro Airwalks, and I went to see Beastly. That’s right. Beastly. As none of you knows (or few of you anyway), I really love children’s literature, and folk and fairytales are very close to my heart. Plus, Neil Patrick Harris, Vanessa Hudgens and Mary-Kate Olsen? I could not resist.

For those who may not know, Beastly is a modernization of the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast directed by Daniel Barnz (Cool z, right? He also directed Phoebe in Wonderland and The Cutting Room).

Certain parts were classic – emphasis on roses, absent/terrible parents, the disenfranchised receiving rewards, etc. The omission of the greedy siblings and angelic Beauty doting on her father was certainly not a bad idea. I liked that Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) was resentful of her father and not such a selfless dope the whole time. Also, they omitted the subplot (begun in Cocteau’s version, later cemented in our consciousness as Gaston) in which Beauty has a suitor who takes part in the narrative. I was generally bothered by the presence of the witch (why not a fairy!?!?) throughout the movie because the enchantress is generally in the prologue or at the conclusion, unavailable for the beast to appeal to her throughout the story. Mary-Kate seemed to just pop up throughout the movie. That being said, isn’t this so good?

Also, there seem to be remnants of the Disney version and Cocteau’s version in which the servants are cursed, too. In Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s printed version (published in the 1700s), there was just magic. Jean Cocteau’s La belle et la bête (1946) makes the castle alive, and creepy hands which protrude from furniture and walls act as servants (to which Disney seemingly gives some nods). In Beastly, the servants are already afflicted by something before they are isolated from society along with the beast. In fact, he seems less isolated than they are in that he is shown leaving the house more than they are in the film. It mostly just sucks because they already learned to live with their problems but have no magical helpers. Instead of receiving gifts for their own merit, their happiness depends on whether Kyle/Hunter (Alex Pettyfer) has merit or sucks at life. It’s not really fair, but apparently magic is bestowed on those who need to learn a lesson instead of those who deserve miracles.

Annnnd props for at least trying to make the beast seem monstrous/devoid of morality. He pretty much blackmails a guy for his daughter. Low.

Now characterization: There pretty much was not any until the transformation. It really didn’t even make sense before that. It was more like, “Look! A jerk! Curse him!” After that, they got into their issues with their parents and feeling isolated, and the issues were definitely ones with which viewers can identify, whether the actors pulled the emotion off or not. I maintain they didn’t.

Music and scenes without dialogue: Ugh, too much and over the top. When I did like the music, I was paying more attention to the music than the movie. Notable moments like this: “On the Radio” by Regina Spektor, “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab for Cutie and “Get Free” by The Vines.

As for the acting, Alex Pettyfer was better when he was “ugly.” All the scenes in the high school were awkward and didn’t seem remotely plausible. Plus when he’s the beast, he has a wonderful tattoo that changes with the seasons, and he doesn’t talk about how pretty he is/tell other people how ugly they are. He’s just more likable.

I was anticipating what Vanessa Hudgens would do with her career post-Zac Efron, and now I know. Whenever she was talking about sappy things, I felt like she was saying “Like kindergarten” on the roof of East High, and when she was just talking, she was actually kind of likable. If we can keep her from singing, maybe she will make something of herself. Is it wrong that I really want to see Sucker Punch? (Answer: No, of course not. There is a dragon in the trailer.) Part of me imagines she will be Alexis Bledel in Sin City though…

I have complained enough. There is one part of Beastly that is absolutely perfect. Can you guess? It’s….. Neil Patrick Harris. Hellurrrr. He points out moments in the movie that are cliché, he mocks the main character constantly and in general is hilarious. Perfect. Done.

To sum up: I would watch this movie again if I wanted to shut off my brain and there were nothing better on the television. For scale, by better I mean the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis version of Freaky Friday or any other Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie.

Also, Neil Patrick Harris.



PS If anyone is interested and has Netflix, La belle et la bête (1946) directed by Jean Cocteau is on Netflix Instant Play.


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