So, you know the time-honored fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast"—about the dashing prince who looks disgusting because a fairy put a curse on him to make his outsides match his ugly insides, and then gives him a year to find true love or he'll stay a beast forever? Well, imagine that story rewritten by a pack of teen girls high on Twilight and Gossip Girl, and you get an idea of what you're in for with Beastly.

Our "beast" du jour is Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), a hot, pompous high schooler who's running for the position of Green Committee president, not because he's so committed to the environment but because he thinks it'll look good on his transcript—a fact he states quite smarmily at the podium right before declaring that he and all the rest of the beautiful people simply get it better in life.

Alex Pettyfer as Kyle

Alex Pettyfer as Kyle

This skin-deep paradigm is fostered by his dad, a news anchor who's all about looks and image. Their relationship is "Cat's in the Cradle" for the new millennium—with Kyle texting his dad from across the room just to get his attention.

Despite the fact Kyle is a total jerk, he's caught the eye of Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), the gorgeous and supposedly nerdy good girl who's running for Green Committee treasurer. Even though Kyle has an online profile that lists his likes as "anything bangable" and his dislikes as "fattycakes," Lindy knows there's something deep and special inside Kyle.

Unfortunately for Kyle, he picks on the wrong co-ed one day, humiliating Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), the campus witch, at a school dance. She gets back at him by hexing him with hideousness. Obviously Kendra has read the Fairy Tale Handbook, because she gives Kyle a year to get someone to tell him she loves him. If he doesn't, he'll stay ugly forever.

Extreme(ly) home(ly) makeover

Extreme(ly) home(ly) makeover

One of my main problems with the movie is that Kendra doesn't just make Kyle ugly, she makes him tattooed and covered with odd metallic designs. He's like Tron meets Beast meets LA Ink. He's not a beast so much as he's the casualty of an overzealous makeup department.

But that's just the beginning of the problems here. The plot twists are contrived—especially how Kyle and Lindy wind up living in the same house. The characters are one-dimensional—dad makes fun of "dumb, ugly" people, Lindy feeds the homeless on the weekends. The dialogue is an odd syncopation of one-liners: "I'm here for everyone who just missed the beauty boat," "she's a self-tatted Frankenskank." The parental fill-ins for Kyle when his dad abandons him (mom's been gone a long time) are a housekeeper with a bad Jamaican accent (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a wisecracking blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris).

But thank God for that wisecracking blind tutor, because he's one of the best parts of Beastly. I have no idea what bet Harris lost in order to wind up in this film, but I'm grateful he did. He delivers his cheesy lines with enough snark to make them enjoyable—instead of eyeroll-worthy, as a lot of the other dialogue is. Mary-Kate Olsen is deliciously weird and wicked as the teenage witch.

Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy

Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy

Pettyfer and Hudgens do an okay job. Pettyfer relies too heavily on his six-pack abs in the beginning of the film, but actually shows us some character development during his Beast year. Hudgens is sweet and pretty and seems fairly genuine. She's a likable heroine and does pretty decent work with the lame material she's given.

I recognize that I'm more than twice the age of the intended audience. But as a woman, I worry about the message movies like Beastly are giving to impressionable teen girls. There's a heart of gold lurking inside each jerk just waiting to be liberated by your love? Be your good-girl self and some hunky oaf will notice you, love you, be transformed by you? Ack.

Granted, these are the some of the same messages accessorizing most chick flicks. But when those messages get marketed to the teen and pre-teen market, it's cause for concern. Beastly certainly isn't the worst offender in the damaging-messages-to-young-girls genre, but certainly our teens deserve more—both in the caliber of the message and in the quality of the overall film.

Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra

Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra

On some levels, Beastly succeeds in giving young viewers a flawed reminder that what resides inside each person is way more important than the packaging—an admirable message, to be sure. It's just hidden amidst too many one-dimensional characters, clunky dialogue, and implausible plot turns. If they'd just dialed it all down a bit, it could have been a cute film.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. What does Lindy see in Kyle? Do you think there really is something good lurking inside him?
  2. What does Kyle see in Lindy? Why is he drawn to her?
  3. What does Kyle learn from his dad? What does he learn from Zola, his housekeeper, and Will, his tutor?
  4. Overall, how does Kyle grow and change over the year that he's a beast?
  5. Where do you see Kyle and Lindy in a year?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Beastly is rated PG-13 for language, including crude comments, brief violence, and some thematic material. The teen leads swear and are mean to each other, though, sadly, most teens probably see as much and more at school. Kendra the teenage witch has amazing powers over Kyle, but we don't see her do any other witchcraft or mention where her powers are coming from. She feels more like a black-clad, uber-eyelinered "fairy" from a Disney fairy tale. Though Lindy is a good role model for young viewers, her dad is a drug addict and she has a brief altercation with him and his dealer. There's a scuffle but we don't see any real violence, and no one is seriously hurt. We see some other teen characters making out, but clothes are on and it's fairly tame.

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Our Rating
1½ Stars - Weak
Average Rating
(3 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for language including crude comments, brief violence and some thematic material)
Directed By
Daniel Barnz
Run Time
1 hour 26 minutes
Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen
Theatre Release
March 04, 2011 by CBS Films
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