Sunday, July 8, 2012

Movie Review: Beastly

I was asked not to post this review on Reviews by People.  However, because it was a review much asked for, I am posting it here for you all.  The title says it all; this is a movie review on the very popular Beastly.

Beastly is a retelling of the classic story Beauty and the Beast, its trendy title not the only thing that has been modernized. There is an old adage that says the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Not so in the world of Kyle Kingsbury. Kyle believes in the beauty of the flesh. He proudly declares from his student body president campaign podium "Beautiful people get it better, that's just the way it is."

Not exactly the most inspiring Prince Charming, is he? But don’t worry, Kyle’s in for a rude awakening. Her name is Kendra, and she just happens to be the witch Kyle decides to humiliate next. No, seriously, she’s a witch. Full blown goth with the power to turn Prince Charming into a frog- er, wrong story- beast.

So, what exactly is this spell our will be hero is placed under? A spell where his “beautiful people” exterior will turn as twisted as his heart. By the time Kyle returns home he is bald, scarred, covered in crazy tattoos, and has signs of embedded metal in his skin.

Just like in the classic story the only way for Kyle’s curse to be lifted is if he can get someone to love him, inside and out. If he fails… well, let’s just say he’s not going to be Prince Charming.

Beastly is very obviously a teen romance. It has all the ingredients of one. Instead of Kyle working to right the wrongs he has done, focus on helping people without getting anything in return, or learning what gives people true beauty, he comes across the beautiful Lindy.

Now, all that said, there are some positive elements to this story. Kyle does actually care about Lindy. In fact, he’s willing to remain a “freak” in order to insure her own wellbeing. Also, when Kyle does change back into a handsome blond (is it really a spoiler when we already know how the classic ends?) he doesn’t immediately think “Oh yeah, now she won’t be able to resist me.” In fact, he is apprehensive and humble.

Kyle didn’t just fall in love with the girl, though. He also came to truly care about the two people in his life who really care about him. His housekeeper and his tutor. We even see Kyle go out of his way to try and help these kind souls.

The themes are pretty recognizable. Beauty isn’t just skin deep. True love is wonderful. Pride goes before the fall, and humility is a virtue. While these things have been told to us before, the themes are ageless.

The negative elements of this film stack up, though. Kyle is a jerk in the beginning of the film. He dishes out insults to people who are overweight, too short, and don’t have crystal clear skin. He also has some language issues. The movie includes more than a dozen misuses of the Lord’s name and foul language. We also have an acronym used that isn’t considered polite in society.

We also have a minor character who overdoses.

Sexual content has a noticeable undertone in this movie as well. Within the first few moments of the film starting we have a shocking rendition of an apparently nude female figure on an advertisement billboard. Kyle also calls Kendra a “slut" and "Frankenskank." Furthermore, there is a joke made, based off of an old alien movie, that Lindy is brought to Kyle’s house to live with him (platonic relationship) and be used as "virginal breeding stock." And then of course, we have a true love’s kiss, but no more passionate than your average Hollywood kiss.
In the background of the film there is talk of losing one’s virginity.

The witchcraft in the movie will certainly be disturbing to some audiences. There is no denying Kendra is a witch. However, Kendra further blurs the lines between “good witch, bad witch”. Kendra isn’t actually portrayed as bad, and yet, she’s not really good, either. What we do know is she’s not someone to mess with. But in the end, Kendra performs a good act (at Kyle’s behest), leaving us to wonder if she’s the good guy, or the bad guy.

The lack of role models is a little disheartening, honestly. Within seconds of meeting Kyle’s father we learn why the protagonist became such a jerk. The news anchor dad doesn’t speak to his son, doesn’t listen, and the only way to get his attention it to text him. We aren’t sure Daddy has taught Kyle anything other than “People like people who look good”, as he says. Kyle’s Dad is also willing to go to whatever lengths possible (in a negative sense) to not be straddled with his grotesque son. He doesn’t care how dangerous the procedure is, just do it so I don’t have to look at him anymore. In the end, Kyle’s Dad fades from his life. Lindy’s role models are as scarce as Kyle’s, and both characters mothers are no longer around.

The only violence in the movie revolves around Lindy’ Dad, who has a confrontation with his drug supplier. Things go south and Lindy (pleading with her father to stop) gets knocked unconscious. A man is shot during this interchange, and Kyle roughs up a guy, but the scene isn’t gory at all.

So, what are my thoughts on all of this? The message isn’t strong enough to combat the negative elements of the film.  I enjoyed the film, honestly, but the movie was kind of like Kyle. Face value is nice, we enjoy the basic elements of the movie, but the undertones beneath the surface overshadow the positives.

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