Beauty but no beast

One sure sign a fantasy movie has gone off the rails is when it’s easier to believe the supernatural twist than the everyday life around it.

Alex Pettyfer as the Beast catches Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy in a scene outside the Prospect Point Zoo.

Alex Pettyfer as the Beast catches Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy in a scene outside the Prospect Point Zoo.


1 1/2 stars (out of 4)

Rated: PG

One sure sign a fantasy movie has gone off the rails is when it’s easier to believe the supernatural twist than the everyday life around it.

It’s no trouble at all buying Beastly’s paranormal premise that spoiled and snotty 17-year-old Kyle Kingston (Alex Pettyfer) is turned punk by vengeful teen witch Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen). Kyle has to stay this way until he finds a girl, or maybe a voodoo doll, to love him for who he really is.

Hey, it’s a Beauty and the Beast update for the Twilight set, and Olsen is indeed pretty scary.

Then reality bites and all bets are off.

I say “turned punk” rather than “turned hideous” because Kyle isn’t ugly at all. He looks like a tattoo devotee or Grateful Dead fanatic, not the hairy clawed “monster” described by Alex Flinn, author of the source novel.

Kyle would be right at home in many clubs on Queen West, and I doubt he’d have trouble finding someone to rub scars with.

Yet we’re supposed to think that he’s so hard to look at, even his father (Peter Krause), a shallow TV talking head, can’t bear the sight of him. Kyle is banished to his rich dad’s country mansion, supposedly in a rural corner of Brooklyn (it was actually filmed near Montreal).

While Kyle sulks, evil daddy-o sends in the reinforcements: platitude-spouting housekeeper Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and wisecracking tutor Will (Neil Patrick Harris, who is pretty funny).

Will is blind, and his hiring is no accident. Dad fears a sighted teacher might turn to stone when confronted with a student who looks like Lady Gaga’s goth brother.

The ungovernable script by rookie writer/director Daniel Barnz completely loses control with the idiotic contrivance used to get Kyle’s love interest Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) into the beastly retreat, adding the requisite beauty to the fable.

Kyle forces Lindy to move in with him by threatening to squeal on some vigilante street justice perpetrated by her pappy. What do you think might upset her more, the kidnapping and blackmailing or the overzealous tattoos?

But even such clumsy wooing might prove no impediment to true love, as long as there are enough roses and poetry to smooth ruffled feathers, and personal epiphanies to bring Beastly wheezing to its obvious conclusion.

What really grates about this movie, apart from the atrocious script, direction and acting, is the premise that “unusual” is synonymous with “ugly.” The transformed Kyle may no longer be the pretty boy he once was, but he’s by no means horrific.

Are the makers of Beastly afraid that the teen demo would run from the thought of love with anyone who doesn’t look like a cover model, which Alex Pettyfer actually is? (This movie and I am Number Four should kill all thoughts of an acting career.)

Beastly is so dumb and dishonest, it can’t even hold true to the Hallmark greeting at its core: “It’s not how others look at me, it’s how I look at myself.”

The mirror shatters, but it’s not because of anything physical.

Peter Howell is a syndicated movie critic for The Toronto Star.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

FILE - In this Friday Aug. 21, 2020 file photo, Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, addresses the media in Berlin, Germany. Activists for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are calling for massive protests in the heart of Moscow and St. Petersburg as Navalny's health reportedly is deteriorating severely while on hunger strike. Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said the demonstrations are called on short notice for Wednesday April 21, 2021, because "his life hangs in the balance. ... We don't know how long he can hold on." (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
Navalny’s team calls protests amid reports of failing health

MOSCOW — Associates of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called Sunday… Continue reading

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a news conference Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla. DeSantis has received a single-dose coronavirus vaccine. His office confirmed Wednesday, April 7, 2021 that the Republican governor got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single dose. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, file)
GOP White House hopefuls move forward as Trump considers run

WASHINGTON — Less than three months after former President Donald Trump left… Continue reading

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

Most Read