Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Beastly Mess of a Movie


A cinematic of train wreck of bad dialogue, predictable storytelling and thin 'acting' that assumes that the teenage female audience it is targeting is too concerned with pretty things to care about substance. And unfortunately is probably correct.

It was announced earlier today that Jamie Campbell Bower, star of Camelot (with roles in Harry Potter, Twilight and Sweeney Todd also under his belt) has been picked as the male lead in the adaptation of the Mortal Instruments young adult book series. Thousands of tween girls and their mothers have cried out in anguish at this news because it means that their precious Alex Pettyfer has once again been 'robbed' of a role he is, in their questionable opinions, 'perfect for' (the first being the romantic lead in the Hunger Games films).

I am not one of those fans. Pettyfer is not, in my opinion, as handsome or talented as these ladies constantly scream and he is certainly not perfect for every role based on a YA book series. That said, he is known for being a vain total douchebag. Which is perfect for this movie because it means he doesn't have to act the part of the lead character. He can just be himself. Pity it still wasn't enough to save this pathetically bad train wreck of a movie.

Beastly is based on a novel by Alex Flinn, which I must admit I have not read (and this movie doesn't inspire me to change that) so I can't speak to the movie as an adaption. I can only judge it on its own merits which are very few to none.

This teenage rift on the classic Beauty and the Beast tale centers around Kyle,a teenage douchebag who is so vain and narcissistic that he does everything in front of a mirror. I wouldn't be shocked if he pisses in front of a mirror so he can admire his aim. The whole mirror schtick is actually one of the few things they get right. It's ripped right out of the mythology of Narcissus, a man who fell in love with his own reflection. And like the fate of Narcissus, this movie goes downhill fast.

Rich boy Kyle is running for president of his exclusive high school's "Green Committee".
An election that's treated like it's a presidential race with a press conference style standing room only speech. It's utterly laughable. As is his "beauty and money are everything, if you lack them get over it" speech. He blatantly says that he doesn't care about the environment, it would just look good on his transcript. He literally demands that they vote for him because he is rich, popular and handsome while the actually caring and more appropriate choice (who is also the female lead) stands to the side listening as the students actually cheer the Douche as if he said something amazingly profound or announced he had just found a cure for cancer (or at least wrinkles and zits). Well all except Kendra the freak girl who is not so subtly in the audience listening. Well if you call a little facial tat and bad hair 'freaky'. (I love that the press referred to her as 'goth' when she is so not.)

Kyle and his band of merry enablers (cause if they didn't suck up to him they would be bigger LIMA losers than the cast of Glee) walk right into a hallway of defaced campaign posters. Including my fav "Don't embrace this Suck" which could be a tagline for the movie. Kendra has a lame verbal spat with Kyle that serves nothing but to tell us what we already know. He's a vain jerk and (now we know her name) Lindy was actually in this for more than transcript points. Jerk Kyle of course turns and accuses Lindy of being behind the defacing. She (no shock) defends herself with a nicely lame "I don't let anyone else speak for me" being sure to toss in the detail that she's at Rich Kid High on a scholarship. She's even so sweet and innocent that she wishes him luck and offers him a handshake. 

Cut to Kyle's homestead and his equally vain father. Rob is a big hotshot news anchor who lives with his bluetooth in his ear and, shocking, ignores his son to the point that Kyle has to send his father an SMS to get his attention. So now we are supposed to see that Kyle's vanity is just what he learned from Daddy and the poor kid is neglected etc and that's what has made him a douche. It's a common move in screenwriting meant to make us feel sympathy for the 'bad guy' but I found it to be less than effective particularly when he acts all douchey to the housekeeper (who shakes it off cause that's what happy Jamaican housekeepers do)

It's no shock that Kyle wins the vote. And then he pulls a play on Kendra (now sporting yet another ugly hair do) to get her to go to some weird ass party with him. Where he pisses off his girlfriend, flirts with Liddy (who knows what his white rose is supposed to symbolize, yeah that's coming back later) and dumps all over Kendra who goes from witch to (well it rhymes with witch). She does some kind of weird voodoo thing on him and after something resembling an acid trip he runs out, somehow makes it home, wakes up ugly and then gets told that he has a year to find someone that can love him as the ugly freak he is or he'll be stuck like that forever. 

The acid trip thing was decent but the whole tattoo thing was lame and actually not really THAT ugly. Cause him to have an accident and he's all burned and scarred, that would be ugly. But what we get is so out there that it's a joke. And then there's Dad. I felt for Peter Krause. The guy has skill but you couldn't see it in the scenes that follow. The really funny part is that they tried to tone down his jack ass narcissism when going whole hog on it would have probably made us feel a little something for Kyle. Then his lame shoving Kyle off to Brooklyn was so obviously fake. Kyle of course jumps on the computer and finds out from Facebook or whatever that everyone thought he was a douche. And no shock that Dad pulls an avoid much. Even better is sending the Happy Jamaican to run the house and hiring Kyle a blind tutor. Or that they both are these philosophy spewing 'better than parents' for Kyle. It's so paint by numbers a 5 year old could have written it. 

Kyle goes out for a little bike ride (driving like a douche)  and ends up at a costume party where he tries to get Kendra to reverse the curse (oh and drops the nugget that it's been 5 months). And gets another dose of "Kyle sucks" with a cute meet with Lindy who spews a little speech about romance and drops a little praise on Kyle for being outspoken even if his opinions were insane (not knowing of course that she's talking to Kyle). The rest of the movie is equally paint by numbers. Kyle has a crush on Lindy, tracks her down, spies on her a few times. Basically kidnaps her after her father kills a drug dealer and Kyle has blackmail photos. She's not happy to be his 'prisoner' but eventually he finds a way to  show her his hidden good guy with a damaged heart and she falls for him. Complete with a sappy soundtrack and a few fairly decent bon mots from Blind Tutor Will. 

The lame dialogue and attempts at humor aside, my biggest problems with this movie are that it tries to shoehorn itself into the classic tale a bit too hard (right down to the Daddy is dying bit). And then there are the Disney esque servant characters egging him on. The pop band of the day soundtrack is ugh, although there are a few decent score bits.  Then there is the sloooooooow pace. Particularly since he seems to become Mr Sensitive overnight and has months to woo his girl. And even when the clock really starts being an issue, there's no emotion or urgency. Then there are the lapses of basic logic. Like the fact that Lindy could look at him several times and couldn't see that "Hunter" is Kyle given that he's just got a shaved head and some gnarly tats. Or that Kyle had a car to drive Lindy to the bus station but couldn't drive her all the way to the hospital. And my favorite is that after all the shoehorning of the classic story they revert to the old standard Rom Com verbal spewing moment rather than staying with the story and the traditional "beast is dying" emotional moment (hit by a car could have done it, shot by the dealer guy would work also). These types of writing flaws are generally spotted by the director but in this case the director was the script writer and as is often the case was clearly blinded by his own sense of his brilliance.

Now let me just add that I'm about 10 years older than the intended audience and frankly your average teenage girl is too busy drooling over how the male lead is a hottie to worry about decent story telling. Which probably explains why this movie had decent box office and why all those teen girls are chanting Alex's name at every role like he's an acting god (for examples of real young/youngish acting gods try Tom Felton, Jackson Rathbone, Robert Pattinson, Jamie Campbell Bower and Matthew Gray Gubler who are all good looking, have actual talent and don't have a douche 'tude). Not all of the blame for this movie being lame, trite and boring falls on the cast but they certainly didn't help to make up for the so so directing, the lame script etc. This movie might be an A+ with the teen girls but for anyone with a notion of good storytelling it's more like a D-. 

Quick Facts 
Released March 2011
Official Site
Director: Daniel Barnz
Writers: Daniel Barnz, Alex Flinn
Stars: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris, Peter Krause, LisaGay Hamilton
Get it:

No comments:

Post a Comment