There is no smooth, kind intro you can give Beastly. Not having read the book, I can’t tout its comparative merits; not being a fan of either leading actor, I can’t opine that I’m sure they can do better. (Frankly, after seeing Beastly I am totally sold that both of those actors have in fact found their level, but we’ll get to that.)

I guess the best way for you who are too clever to sit through movies like this to gauge how bad Beastly was is this: I have sat through Legion, Repo Men, and Catwoman TWICE, and halfway through Beastly I turned to my friend and offered to take an Incomplete on this review if she wanted to leave, because I was willing to walk out on a movie we had paid for and I had promised to review.

We stuck it out, but that’s about the shape of things.

That said, here are ten things you need to know before you decide whether or not (not, not, DEAR GOD NOT) to see Beastly.

Once Upon a Time…I rolled my eyes for 90 minutes without stopping.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Beauty and the Beast is kind of a skeevy fairy tale to start with. Even in the traditional tale when Beauty offers her life of her own volition and the Beast is nothing but kindness, the onus is still on Beauty to fall in love with the ugly guy before he can transform into someone hot, while he gets to fall in love with a stone fox right from the off. Modern versions tend to make the guy in question an asshole, to provide a reason for his transformation, which basically turns into a hot chick falling for an abusive guy who turns good/handsome again through the power of her love. You can see where this might not be a super-great message to be handing our young ladies.

This movie can’t! This movie can’t see that whatsoever. The tagline on the poster for this movie is, “Love is Never Ugly.” Ladies and gentlemen, my face right now.

And now, to the film.


Actual production still. I can’t even.

1. The “hero” is Kyle, “played” by Alex Pettyfer, who as the movie opens is running for his high school’s Green Committee. This is the kind of movie where they let classes out for these speeches, and so the school’s all-glass lobby auditorium is packed (you know how young people are so invested in high school elections these days). He makes his speech for Green Committee president. The speech is, “Beautiful people have it better,” in which he tells the student body they are going to vote for him because he is good-looking. (You know how young people love someone smugly telling them what they’re going to do.)

He also encourages ugly people and those who “just missed the beauty boat” to “embrace the suck” of living ugly. (Stop trying to make fetch happen, movie.) The students hoot and wave their Kyle Kingston face masks in solidarity.

Meanwhile, a group of After-School Specials line up in the back of the room and whisper, “It’s a little…obvious, isn’t it?”

This is less egregious than some of the things that come later, but just keep in mind that this is the level of screenwriting we’re dealing with throughout.

2. I never thought I would have a reason to type this sentence, but Mary-Kate Olsen is the best thing about this film. (LOOK AT THAT SENTENCE. WHAT.) At least when she’s onscreen, she seems aware that the words she is saying are a huge mess, and she was mostly in this because she figured she could take home some of her wardrobe. Plus, when she speaks, you can be pretty sure that soon Alex Pettyfer will be punished. Sadly, none of her enchantment includes, “And be hit by a truck as soon as possible.”

3. Her enchantment does include making him “Beastly.” This means he gets full-body tattoos, some shallow facial scarring, and a couple of embedded piercings, so now he is an able-bodied, white, wealthy, young, otherwise healthy young man with full-body tattoos, some shallow facial scarring, and a couple of embedded piercings. Later, when he shows Vanessa Hudgens his real face, she says, “I’ve seen worse,” and he looks at her wonderingly. Dear movie: fuck you.

4. He is banished to a cavernous Brooklyn brownstone with a housekeeper (oh, the agony). The housekeeper, Zola, is from an unnamed nation. When we meet her, Alex Pettyfer is snapping at her, “Don’t you have those 16 kids to go home to?” After he’s Beasted, he shows he cares by asking how many kids she really has (three), and then saying, “How could you just leave them?”

Later, when he looks for romantic advice, she tells him lots of Wise Advice things, and also that when her husband wanted him to marry her, he wove her a basket. (I…can’t.)

5. The award for Best Hostage Eyes goes to Neil Patrick “Dear Everyone, Please Realize This is a CBS Film and I Had No Choice, Please, I Still Want to Host the Emmys” Harris, as Alex Pettyfer’s blind tutor. To prove he is the comic relief, there is a whole scene in which the two of them hit golf balls off the roof of his brownstone at night, taking turns screaming “Wasssup.” This literally happens.

6. Vanessa Hudgens is in this. (Let’s not make any claims that she’s acting. She’s just…in this.) She plays the scholarship kid at school, whose work-study job is to move around the same three votives during her first scene with Alex Pettyfer at the school election-celebration formal dances (you know how high schools are with their high school election-celebration formal dances). She’s saving for the school trip to Machu Picchu, the only thing she’s ever done for herself. She cannot be bought with purses or necklaces! She can, however, be bought by a large box of Jujyfruits, that Alex Pettyfer knows she likes because he has been stalking her on the regular ever since that school dance, so when she stops in the deli late at night to buy snacks, he knows exactly what she likes, because of all the stalking.

7. So here’s how she comes to live with Alex. He’s stalking her as per usual, and her dad goes to make a drug deal on the fire escape directly behind his building (sure) and is menaced by two drug-dealing brothers, one of whom knocks Vanessa off the fire escape, and by the time Creeps McGee has carried her to safety, her dad has shot one of the brothers! The other brother, who is not armed (you know that rule where only 50% of the dealers at a shakedown can have a gun), says “Your daughter for my brother!” and makes a break for it.

Neither Creeps McGee nor Vanessa’s dad move to go protect Vanessa from the angry man who just ran away. Instead, Creeps offers his pad as a place for her to be safe. When the dad hesitates, Creeps takes cell phone pictures of the dad with the gun in his hand standing over the dead body, and says that now she’s going to crash at his pad for SURE, and if she leaves ever, the photos go to the cops.

Let me remind you that at no point is this young man run over by a truck. (Dear movie: fuck you.)

8. Once they have started to be friends (through a process I can’t even write about because it is seriously too painful to recall), he takes her to the zoo at night and they watch a video about an elephant mother who lost both her children one year, and during the next year’s migration recognizes their bones. “Can you imagine a love like this?” he asks the motherless Vanessa. “No,” she says.

Remember this.

9. He builds her a greenhouse full of roses. By then, the only thing I noticed was that even though there’s a lock on the door to her attic room, when the greenhouse is ready, he slides her skylight right open. She does not seem bothered by this huge security breach; maybe that’s because by now she admitted, all unknowing, that she liked handsome-Kyle because he was “confident” (oh, girl), and she likes him now, and sometimes he reminds her of handsome-him, and isn’t that strange? No mention is ever made of the fact that his eyebrow tattoos clearly read “embrace” and “suck,” or that his faltering Americenglish accent is just like Kyle’s, and also his body type and bone structure are exactly the same and he is not IDed until the final moments of the movie.

10. Speaking of, the final moments of the movie involve him rushing to the school, desperate to catch her before she gets on the bus to her class trip. They declare their love for each other just before she drags her carry-on to the bus to go on the school trip. He waves goodbye, figuring it’s too late to be handsome, but since she loves him, they can still date when she gets back from the school trip that she’s going on.

But he’s handsome again! And look! She hasn’t gone on the school trip after all! On the one hand, this is best, because going on a school trip with a bunch of high schoolers is a slice of hell. On the other hand, that is the only thing she ever wanted for herself, and she gave it up, even though he told her he’d see her when she got back in his one attempt to be a normal non-stalker boyfriend, so there was absolutely nothing for her to lose narratively, and when he says, “Can you imagine a love like that?,” she says, “Yes,” because falling in love with someone who held you hostage is just like being an elephant mom. (Oh, girl.) On the other hand, since our stakes were SCHOOL TRIP, that argument could be made about this entire scene.

Also, the whole movie.