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Kyle Kingson has it all - looks, intelligence, wealth and opportunity - and a wicked cruel streak. Prone to mocking and humiliating "aggressively unattractive" classmates, he zeroes in on Goth classmate Kendra, inviting her to the school's extravagant environmental bash. Kendra accepts, and, true to form, Kyle blows her off in a particularly savage fashion. She retaliates by casting a spell that physically transforms him into everything he despises. Enraged by his horrible and unrecognizable appearance, he learns that the only solution to the curse is to find someone that will love him as he is - a task that might be impossible.
For more about Beastly and the Beastly Blu-ray release, see Beastly Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 29, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris, Erik Knudsen, Dakota Johnson
Director: Daniel Barnz
» See full cast & crew
Beastly Blu-ray Review
Not much of a beauty, but the theme remains strong.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 29, 2011
What if it weren't a story?
Beastly delivers exactly as promised, re-telling a "tale as old as time" about the true meaning of love. While that's a plus -- the theme is a good one and always timely -- that also happens to be its greatest weakness. Beastly is just too generic, even if it's been spruced up to flashy 2011 standards. The film and the story it tells both mean well -- there's no denying that -- and the execution is fair, but there's just something missing that takes away from the admirable principles the film espouses, namely a sense of individuality. Though the film features a couple of "hot young stars" and succinctly tells the story it sets out to tell, the film feels somewhat empty in the end, even considering all of the standard emotions and expected developments that are sure to pull on the heartstrings, but not necessarily because the characters, their plights, or their actions warrant such an emotional response. The emotions stem more from the principal of the matter, the enjoyment one can derive from true love taking form despite outward appearances, but the film leaves no lasting impression beyond its goodhearted fašade.
Stuck up, self-centered, ultra-vain high schooler Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) has used his good looks to ascend to the top of the heap at the cutting edge Buckston High School where he wins class elections based on his looks and his looks alone. The son of a famous and well-groomed TV reporter, Kyle shuns anything and everything ugly, though he fails to recognize that he himself is ugliest of all -- on the inside. He regularly ridicules outcast student Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) who one day curses Kyle with a shaved head and a badly scarred and heavily tattooed face. She tells him that curse may only be lifted if he can find true love by springtime. Kyle hides his disfigurement and loses both his hope and his lifestyle. When Kyle -- now going by the anonymous name Hunter -- happens to save fellow student Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) from a mugging, he invites her to his secluded hideaway home to stay safe from promised criminal retaliation. She accepts and slowly becomes one of three people -- including the blind teacher Will (Neil Patrick Harris) and the Jamaican housekeeper Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton) -- who come to see that there's more to Kyle than unsightly scars and tattoos, but will it be enough to lift the curse that could either make or break Kyle's life?
Beastly, for all its good intentions, ultimately feels hollow. It's not without purpose nor is it absent a good message, but it's also so unoriginal, utterly predictable, and frankly unnecessary that most will be hard-pressed to find any real purpose in it. Its message has been done and done and done some more. That doesn't negate its importance, but it does lessen its resonance. What the film does do well -- despite a sense that the flashy and "cool" fašade seems to in some way lessen the story's overall impact because, well, it has to be superficially slick in addition to emotionally substantive to pull in audiences -- is to refuse to become wholly bogged down in its setting. The contemporary circuit-driven, instant-message, always-on 21st century landscape factors into the film but never does the slick and modern overwhelm the core values of true love and vision beyond the superficial and artificial, though they certainly co-exist to a greater degree than they probably should. Were the film all about the artificialness and impersonality of the Facebook/cell phone generation, it would have lost all meaning. That's not the case, but still, the movie just can't escape how weighted down it feels by slogging through the motions without really taking any chances, only upping the stakes through its snazzy contemporary setting. It's a tightrope the film doesn't always walk very well; the film stays true to and respects its themes, but it just can't escape the need for some jazzed up artificiality to help sell it beyond its core principles.
Director Daniel Barnz doesn't do much on the other side of the camera to make the movie better, either. He uses shadow to the film's benefit early on as Kyle remains ashamed and afraid of his disfigurement, still incapable of accepting his fate and learning to live as he is and project from within rather than exist strictly from a physical sense. The metaphor is obvious but cinematically effective, but Barnz doesn't do much more to visually enhance the story. He doesn't have to, either, as the basics of the story prove historically strong enough to allow the film to stand on its own, even if in Beastly the basics are pretty much the only thing carrying the movie to respectability. Also holding the movie back is an overwhelming sense of weirdness. The "magical" plot device feels like just that, present only to carry the story while it's not explained all that well. Indeed, the Kendra character remains more a mystery throughout, her role integral to the entire film but always competing with a "wow, OK, she looks straaaaange" kind of sensation that dominates every scene in which she appears, which in a roundabout way reinforces the film's themes as she seems to silently chastise every audience member who dwells on her outward appearance. The other primary characters aren't necessarily developed all that well, and the corresponding performances are helped more by the fundamental emotions the story engenders than they are the actor's own capabilities. All said, Beastly isn't a terrible movie. It falls in some middle ground purgatory where fans of fairy tales retold will probably enjoy it well enough, but this is certainly no Beauty and the Beast.
Beastly Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony presents Beastly on Blu-ray with a strong, but not quite perfect, 1080p transfer. The image plays with a slight warm tinge to it, seeming to sometimes even gravitate towards a light but nevertheless discernible brown shading. Otherwise, colors are pleasantly stable and seemingly accurate throughout, whether as seen in the extremes of the glossy white high school or the shadows in which Kyle hides, and of course everything in between. Fine detailing is nicely visible, but the image never achieves that breathtaking level of textural perfection. Facial and clothing textures are fair, as are building fašades, natural greenery, and various odds and ends around the frame, but where the image truly shines is in its ability to bring out even the faintest of details in the intricate "beastly" makeup and prosthetics. There are no technical problems of note, but several minor bouts of softness drag the overall presentation down a notch in a few shots. A light layer of natural grain rounds a handsome, sturdy, but not quite perfect transfer into form.
Beastly Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Beastly doesn't exactly roar onto Blu-ray (that would have been too easy) but it doesn't exactly whimper, either. Sony's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack drags its heels early on, failing to really get into the swing of things in the first act or so. Shaky dialogue, cramped and stifled applause, a loose low end, and a generally muddled tone give listeners the sense that the track is likely to sputter and stammer along with little life, accuracy, or realism. Fortunately, the stiffness and various bugaboos seem to dissipate or disappear as the film wears on. Dialogue tightens up nicely, bass becomes more certain and self-assured, and music enjoys a more airy and accurate posture. The surround channels are lightly but mostly effectively utilized throughout in support of various effects of differing levels of intensity, but the back channels never overpower the presentation. Mostly, Beastly is a talk-heavy Drama with little going for it sonically; Sony's track could be better, but it's a fair presentation of what is a mostly inconsequential sort of soundtrack.
Beastly Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Beastly makes its Blu-ray debut with a few scattered extras coming along for the ride.
Beastly Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Beastly takes an old idea, sets it in modern times, and more or less leaves it at that. The script is flat and the emotions are necessarily predictable, but that doesn't stop the movie from pulling on the old heartstrings a few times. The movie feels superfluous; it's well made, the acting is decent enough, and the story holds true, but this one is far from being anything more than a competent, watchable, and forgettable time killer that won't resonate simply because there's nothing new to keep it alive as anything more than a footnote in the annals of "true beauty lies within" type of tales. Sony's Blu-ray release of Beastly delivers an above-average technical presentation but skimps on extras. Worth a rental.
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Beastly Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Beastly Blu-ray - April 30, 2011
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of Beastly. Director Daniel Barnz's modern retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" stars Alex Pettyfer as a cursed socialite who must earn the affections of a young woman played by Vanessa Hudgens. ...
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