"Beastly" is most likely going to make a lot of money.
I am most likely not going to like it.
And it will not matter a bit.
To be fair, I haven't seen the last film by Daniel Barnz, 2008's "Phoebe In Wonderland," a moderately well-reviewed picture with Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, and Campbell Scott. Here, though, we've got a movie that is like a "Twilight"-fan-seeking-missile. It is a fascinatingly crafted, just in this 47-minute sneak peek they've posted today.
Wait. It's not actually 47 minutes. I had to go back and look, and I'm surprised it's only actually a total of 2 1/2 minutes. It's a "Beauty and the Beast" riff for the crowd that has been well-and-truly primed with the adventures of Edward and Buffy and Angel and Bella and now, here it is, the ol' girl-sees-past-a-rough-exterior-to-the-cuddlebuddy-buried-deep-inside number.
Vanessa Hudgens and a dude star in the film as the girl and... well, the dude. I'm not sure who the kid is at first glance. IMDb offers up "Alex Pettyfer." Still drawing a blank. I read his previous credits, and "'Entertainment Tonight' (Himself)" is the most familiar thing on the list before this. No matter. He was hired right, based on the glimpse here. As the pre-curse version of himself, he's almost absurdly pretty, and then when he's become "The Beast," he just looks like a dude who took Burning Man a little too far. It's carefully designed "ugly" make-up.
Let's see if I'm right. Let's see if CBS Films can deliver on the throwdown they made in the just-released trailer, which MTV Films exclusively premiered.
Tell me what you think. Even if you personally aren't going to go see that movie, is there any denying how carefully targeted that is?
I'm calling it as a hit based on two things: Vanessa Hudgens and Neil Patrick Harris. He plays the blind tutor to Pettyfer's rich kid who is cursed by a witch played by... wait for it... Mary-Kate Olsen. In equally carefully applied "ugly" make-up. Hudgens is, I think, a genuine starlet waiting to happen. It's not the world's greatest film, but "Bandslam" makes me believe she's a credible actor, and seeing what she's doing in Zack Snyder's upcoming "Sucker Punch," I think she's got what it takes to be a real movie-opening star. And Neil Patrick Harris is a not-so-secret secret weapon at this point, a guy who comes in, kills, and moves on. He's great wherever he shows up, and this role is a showcase, a victory lap for any good character actor let alone Harris.
This came off of IMDb's "trivia" section, by the way, and reads like someone just cut and pasted a bit of a press release: "CBS Films has already announced that Beastly will have apparel and accessories, social expressions and gaming eyed for consumer product treatment for the film's marketing."
This is hitmaking as brain surgery, and the fans of Alex Flinn's book are ready to get their turn in the "squeeee" industry. When the film opens on July 30, I expect "Beastly" to be a juggernaut, no matter what else is opening. It is not counter-programming in the sense that a trailer like that essentially shows the audience the whole move condensed. This is a throw-down from CBS Films, and just like the Alex Flinn fans, they're waiting for their first really no-argument hits. They're sort of chugging along right now, trying several things. "Faster" might work. But "Beastly"? "Beastly" has a HUGE shot of delivering exactly what that specific audience wants.
I am sure there will be more "Beastly" here at HitFix between now and opening. The film seems inevitable in its place in the traffic appetite of most movie websites. I can respect that if this film opens big, it's because of a real fanbase, and because the trailer speaks to them directly. Hudgens has been building goodwill. She's due.
We'll see if I'm right when "Beastly" is released on July 30, 2010.
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