The modern day! Modern things! Why bother watching or thinking about OLD THINGS when we’ve got all these NEW THINGS clicking at us, bounding around our eyes, hooting wildly in our ever-aging, sinking, horrible faces? What kind of a teenager wants to watch a stupid fairytale about stupid magic and forests and, bloody, candelabras and stuff, when the girl from High School Musical might at any moment pull her trousers down a bit to reveal the little dents in her lower back? Beastly takes a classic tale filled with love, sacrifice, music and magic and drags it into MODERN, and thank God it did. Otherwise we’d have to watch the original, and the horrible, poisonous air of the OLD THING might somehow force us to take another, papery-skinned step closer to BEING AN OLD THING AND PROBABLY DYING.
Right, but let’s not judge too harshly before we’ve even begun, eh? There’s often nothing like a fresh look at an old tale; a good exercising of a moral far too comfortable in its cracked, mossy seat. We’re all familiar with the plot of Beauty And The Beast, right? In order to avoid confusion, I’ll try and map out the key events of adaptation Beastly using the original 1991 classic as a basis:
So, Bad-Ass Prince (High School Man-Child Alex Pettyfer) is really badly behaved all the time (goes for something called “Green President”, which is something to do with wanting to save the environment, but he totally DOESN’T EVEN CARE about saving the environment and stuff, so it’s really bad), but he gets away with it because of the patriarchal hierarchy of the monarchy system (he’s abundant in cheekbones and cash). One day though, Prince is damned by a witch with magical powers (an Olsen twin with magical powers. Wait, doesn’t the addition of ‘SOME MAGIC’ sort of negate the “this is the real world BITCHES” concept that is the only thing keeping this entire, desperately sad affair from falling apart? Yes. But let’s keep going) and he turns into a hairy, hideous monster (looks inky-sex-tastic, and his dad presumably just assumes he’s been mugged by a load of very artistic, patient rapists).
He’s locked away in a castle (like, an apartment? But… does he have to stay there? Erm, well. no… but he will anyway, for a bit). All his servants are under the curse too, and are thusly trapped in the Prince’s doomed tower (well… there’s a dubious Rastafarian woman who seems to be there. But… like, she’s not affected by the… but then why does she stay there? And Neil Patrick Harris is blind. That’s… that’s not really relevent. But he is, so that’s one source of comedy at least. And he’s sort of trapped there too, but not really, cos the magic…doesn’t… exist? But it does, of course, but not quite as much, and-)
BUT ANYWAY, there’s a girl! (there’s a girl from High School Musical!) She sings about books and fields and lovely squirrels and things (she has the words “AIDS” in big letters in her room somewhere and homeless men ask her about her dead mum). After her father gets lost and finds the castle, she sacrifices herself for her father’s freedom, and is locked in the tower (her dad is a druggie, and does a bad murder LITERALLY OUT OF NOWHERE for no reason whatsoever. Somehow, in a mind-swillingly unbelievable turn of events, this means GIRL has to go live with Sexy Tattooed Boy for reasons that aren’t so much ridiculous as they are simply non-existent). Will love blossom in time to break the curse? (WHY ARE THEY BREAKING INTO A ZOO? AND WHAT KIND OF SECURITY GUARD LEAVES ALL THE WINDOWS OPEN? WHAT? WHAT?)
With so many trumpetingly gaping holes in the plot, concept, acting ability, dialogue and Alex Pettyfer’s face, it’s quite difficult to consider Beastly a film at all. It’s more a grusomely stretched music video, with Mary-Ashely Olsen (it genuinely doesn’t matter) lip-syncing smugly at the centre of it all – her rolling hips and eyes only serving to make her look like a victim of some sexuality-induced stroke. A film about the power of inner beauty, filled with horrific, beautiful people; this is one piece of ugly that no magic can erase.