This was supposed to be a joke, right? When watching Beastly, I laughed a great deal more than I expected. It wound up being camp because of how serious, yet at the same time, so hilarious, it is. If I had to recommend Beastly at all, it would be because it’s only 86 minutes long, and because it’s quite an enjoyable 86 minutes. No, it isn’t really “good,” but will you accept that to see a funny and, at times, sweet, film?
We begin with a very popular guy in high school named Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) attempting to become the president of the Green Committee. His speech lasts not even a minute, and he admits that he doesn’t care about the environment. So, as everything in high school is a popularity contest, he wins. His competitor, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), congratulates him, and may like him. Isn’t high school drama fun? A “witch” named Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) doesn’t like that he won, and after he humiliates her, she places a curse upon him.
If you’ve seen the poster or trailer for Beastly, you probably know what Kyle (who is now going under the assumed name “Hunter”) looks like. He has a bunch of weird tattoos, some scars, some seemingly open wounds, and a bit of acne. To call him “horrendous” would be an overstatement, and, as one character puts it: “I’ve seen worse.” But his rich news anchor father (Peter Krause) is ashamed of him, so Hunter is put in a reclusive house shared only with his housekeeper (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris). His father no longer visits, and Hunter ends up spending a lot of time alone.
All curses have ways to reverse them, right? Well, yes. The witch tells him that he has to find someone to say “I love you” within the next year. The assumption is that the person has to mean it, although that isn’t specified. I’m unsure why Hunter decides to wait almost six months before even leaving the house to find love, but that’s what he does. When he finally does go out to find someone, he spends a great deal of time stalking Lindy. Why? Because stalking someone means that they’ll fall in love with you.
Lindy makes a good target for someone like him. Firstly, she has a similar back story to him. Both of their fathers are somewhat bothersome — his doesn’t care about him and hers is a drug addict — meaning they have that in common. Secondly, she liked the “pretty” him, somewhat (maybe), so it’s possible that she’ll like the ugly him. And thirdly, he stalks her and finds out she’s slightly “quirky,” meaning she’s the perfect character to attempt to get an “I love you” from. Somehow.
In what is probably the creepiest — and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way — moment of the film, he manages to effectively kidnap her and keep her in his house. I won’t get into it, but after stalking her for some time, he steals her from her father and keeps her held captive. That is definitely how you earn love, Hunter. It’s at this point when Beastly starts to run out of steam, although we do actually begin to learn about the characters, which is always nice.
Yes, it’s all forced. Yes, it’s cliché. And yes, it’s all incredibly obvious and filled with exposition. This helps make the point, and in a film like this, getting the message across is the main idea. If we need to have “deep” characters to do that, but we’re not smart enough to cleverly allow the audience to learn their complexities, then flat-out telling them is better than leaving them to be empty vessels. At least, this is the way I figure the filmmakers of Beastly thought about it.
The poor writing continues from line to line, although it might have been more the case of not-so-great actors spouting the lines than the lines themselves. If one of the two leads had to say something that lasted more than a sentence, more often than not, it wouldn’t sound believable. This helped with the camp, actually. I laughed quite often when these serious monologues would commence, as it meant that I got to hear these actors struggle with their lines. The writing didn’t help, but they had trouble making decent sentences sound right. (There are some hilariously written lines, though, which I can only hope were supposed to be that way.)
Each of the supporting cast members also gets one specific problem that Hunter has to start caring about. The housekeeper left her native Jamaica in order to slave away in America because she can’t get her family green cards. The blind tutor is, well, blind, and despite being a perfectly functional member of the “family,” Hunter doesn’t like that he can’t see. So he cares, and actually at one point begs the witch to help out these two characters. Hunter’s father, however, is a terrible person because he’s rich and doesn’t spend time with his family. Hunter doesn’t want him to get better, he just wants him out of his life, just like Lindy wants her father out of her life.
Look, Beastly isn’t a good film. Does that stop it from being somewhat enjoyable? No, I don’t think so. It made me laugh for most of its runtime, and by the end, yes, I thought it was sweet and its heart was in the right place, even if earlier events were genuinely creepy. The actors aren’t good, the writing is poor, the plot meanders for too long in one place, and almost every time the film tries to be serious, it failed. But I had fun, and it’s only 86 minutes, so I won’t say it’s not necessarily worth a watch.