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Manhattanite Kyle Kingson (Pettyfer) is young, wealthy, beautiful, and cruel, but he picks the wrong classmate to prank when Kendra (Olsen) casts a spell that turns him into everything he despises. Banished to Brooklyn and informed that the only way to break the curse is to find someone who will love him as he is, a fateful encounter with Lindy (Hudgens), looks to literally and figuratively change his life.
Release Date: 4 March 2011
The opening night crowd for "Beastly" was a bit of a surprise -- as many young men as young women, and lots of apparently intense excitement about the film. It's nice to watch a film sometimes in the company of its own perfect demographic, and those who came to catch Beastly's premier were definitely enjoying themselves.
There have been any number of more-or-less clunky remakes of classic fairytale romances transported to the modern age, from the lackluster "A Cinderella Story" to the utterly charming oddball musical "Enchanted." Some of them work; some of them are so threadbare that even the glimmers of the original source material shining through can't save them from shabbiness.
Beastly is an intriguing and often genuinely entertaining mixture of hits and misfires. When the film works, it's wonderful, When it doesn't, it's clunky, and the audience knows it.
They also seemed more than willing, as I was, to forgive the odd lame duck line of dialogue or forced plot twist. And that was due to the two strengths of Beastly, either of which would make it a film worth the trip to the cinema for anyone with a hint of romance or a taste for humor.
The first strength is the undeniable chemistry between the two leads. The story may be old -- scholarship girl and Park Avenue boy, an attraction that seems unlikely to bridge the gap between their relative economic states -- but the specifics of the relationship and the points of contact they discover ring entirely true. You know that the poverty-bred Lindy will fall in love with the disguised Kyle/Hunter, but you enjoy the ride so much, it doesn't matter.
The other great strength of the film is the casting of a brilliantly charming supporting cast including Peter Krause (Parenthood, Six Feet Under) as Kyle's vain and distant dad, the always wonderful Lisa Gay Hamilton (Men of a Certain Age) as his patient Jamaican "caretaker," and Neil Patrick Harris (does anyone need to know who he is?) as the blind tutor Kyle's dad hires as a father-substitute. And then there's the great revelation of the cast -- Mary-Kate Olsen as the witch who curses Kyle. She's marvellous, and shows a depth and control that I for one can't wait to see again in another, larger role.
There are laugh-out-loud moments of both the cringing embarrassed-at-the-script sort, but there are also genuinely, surprising and blissfully humorous moments as well, especially in the dialogue between Harris and Pettyfer. There's something beautiful happening here in the play between the actors, a kind of airy wit and sense of fun that almost always is missing in teen romances.
Beastly is a welcome respite from the over-blown sentimentality and heavy-handedness of the Twilight series and the darkness of the final days of Harry Potter. It's a charmer that deserves a place on the shelf alongside Serendipity and the underrated Simply Irresistible.