Beastly: A modern fairy tale

Beastly is a movie adaptation of Alex Flinn’s young adult novel of the same title. The book, as well as the movie are contemporary reimaginings of the fairy tale classic Beauty and the Beast. Unlike Belle and her Beast, there were no castles and talking furnitures. Rather, this love story is set in dark streets of downtown New York.

The movie had all the basic elements, cute and conceited male lead Kyle Kingston (Alex Pettyfer, I am Number Four), girl next door Lindy (High School Musical alum Vanessa Hudgens), and a competent supporting cast of characters in the form of Peter Krause as Rob Kingston, Kyle’s narcissistic news anchor dad, Neil Patrick Harris as Will, the blind tutor, and Mary Kate Olsen as the goth witch Kendra, who cursed Kyle to become a beast because of his arrogance and meanness.

Beastly pretty much follows the pattern of the fairy tale. Kyle, the most popular boy in school, who is shallow and petty (because he was raised by his equally shallow and petty father to understand that looks are the most important thing to a person) runs for Green Committee Chairman and wins on the basis of his looks and his money. He uses this opportunity as a platform to sound off against “ugly” people on campus, which ticks off weird goth chick Kendra. Driven by his meanness, he plays a trick on her, the only female who dared to openly oppose him, and embarrasses her in front of the entire school during the dance. Kendra in turn teaches him a lesson and inflicts upon him the ugliness which he so despises, and gives him one year to find someone who will love him unconditionally, or else he stays ugly forever.

The movie did well to establish during the beginning several interactions between Kyle and Lindy, the scholarship kid he falls in love with, to show off Kyle’s finer moments.

From the bat, there were similarities and differences compared to the book. It is understandable that the filmmkers would want to modify some parts to make it more suitable to the screen, and most of the modifications didn’t really hurt the general storytelling.

In the book, there was only one encounter between the two characters prior to his beasthood (when he gave her the white rose that Sloan rejected) but in the movie, they were able to talk for a bit during three scenes, ones which showed Kyle acting civilly towards Lindy. When he finally pursued her post-Kendra’s curse, it did not seem forced or awkward. In the book, Kyle was portrayed as a hairy beast (I was thinking Chewbaka-ish), the movie went on to tone down the beast by making him a mutilated tatted freak instead, the same description he used on Kendra. In the movie, he was able to walk the streets at night, but in the book, the only time the beast went out caused chaos in New York’s subway.

I liked the chemistry between the two lead actors, and actually liked Kyle better when he was Hunter (the name he adopted while he was the beast. In the book, it was Adrian which means the dark one), because he began to show signs of self doubt. Without his looks, he worked harder to win Lindy’s affections compared to the time he was king of the school when people just fell all over themselves to please him. I especially appreciated the scenes where he would make like a kid, knocking on Lindy’s door to leave a present and running away to sneak a peek to see her reaction to it.

A lot of the funny was supplied by Neil Patrick Harris as the blind tutor. I was picturing him as How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson half of the time because of his innuendos and witty one liners. One thing I didn’t like though, was Sola, the housekeeper’s fake Jamaican accent. It seemed forced at best and distracted from the impact of the dialog.

While there were some discrepancies between the book and the movie, it was all good because they actually reached the same conclusion — the happy ending. Beastly is a chick flick, no more, no less. A good one? Probably. People basically got what they came for. A smile on their faces as they leave the cinema. I was actually surprised to see it holding its own against bigger movies like Thor. Beastly is a feel good reinvention of a childhood classic, and on this premise alone, it already got my vote. IT never hurts to have a little fairy tale in your life, even if it is just for an hour or so.