So Kyle is a douchebag. He goes to the billion dollar a year private school in Manhattan, the kind that looks like a modern art gallery rather than an educational institution. He doesn’t run for class president, he runs for president of The Green Committee because environmentalism will look good on his resume. And he runs on the platform of not caring about the environment, insisting that everyone should vote for him because he’s rich, handsome, and popular.
Kyle spends his spare time dressing in thousand dollar suits, mocking anyone he thinks ugly, and of course exercising without his shirt on. Or writing without his shirt on. Brooding without his shirt on. Sleeping without his shirt on. Seriously, other than the suits in the film’s first act, this kid had like a $17 wardrobe budget.
The problem is that he pisses off a witch. Literally. One of those “Full House” twins (let’s be honest, neither of us cares enough for me to look up which one) dresses in a lot of black and while aiming for moody, mysterious, seductive and threatening, actually lands somewhere in the ballpark of pitiful, delusional, and crack addicted. She casts a spell, which involves her saying “embrace the suck” through a voice distorter. And just like that Mr. Abs is transformed into an ugly beast.
And by “beast,” I mean that he’s bald, has a few odd lumps, some wicked tattoos and piercings, and of course retains his abs. To be fair, he is a bit more gruesome than the trailers make out, those lumps look like swollen boils, and he’s got these gaping gashes across his face that really look like they should get stitches. So he’s not as pretty, but he’s got a great future on stage in a band.
Kyle is given a year to get somebody to love him, his father (Peter Krause collecting that paycheck) dumps him in an apartment out of sight, and sends the housekeeper and a blind tutor with him. Vanessa Hudgens is brought in as the love interest and the interminable plot rumbles through every item on the teens-fall-in-love checklist. Other than the abominable acting by the Olsen twin, the actors didn’t do an abysmal job. Neil Patrick Harris is gold as always, but is in so little of the film that it hardly redeems anything. Alex Pettyfer isn’t going to win an Oscar any time soon, but then he’s responsible for holding up most of the catastrophically bad script, so there’s only so much worth laying on his acting chops. Hudgens is surprisingly good, with a sort of infectiously friendly screen presence that explains a lot of her appeal to the teenage demographic.
Now let’s just level this apocalyptically bad attempt at a story.
The filmmaker’s decision to make the beastifying of Kyle realistic instead of the traditional image of the hairy beast is understandable at face value but ludicrous in execution. “Don’t be silly Dad, I didn’t have anything to do with the ritual scars, shaved head, body piercings, and tattoos, a witch did that.” Sure kid, a witch did it, great excuse that one. That’s how the Salem witch trials started. They go to a single doctor who is baffled and can’t help, probably because asking a doctor how you woke up one morning with tattoos is probably like asking one how in the world you got pregnant. In other words, bad life choices are not a medical condition.
And so Kyle withdraws into what he labels his own private hell. The one with his own apartment, live-in NPH, live-in housekeeper and cook. What agony! All he can do is wallow in self-pity. And buy anything he wants while having his every need and whim catered to. See, the witch took away his beauty so that he could learn the value of inner beauty, so that he sees that people can love him not for his looks but for the things about him that really matter: his money and his abs.
He does the only logical thing: he begins to stalk Vanessa Hudgens. We’re talking the full Cullen treatment here. He follows her around for weeks, at night, covering his face, watching as she goes to and from the store, gazing at her through the window as she reads. The least they could have done during this montage was play “Every Breath You Take,” but that would require some self awareness. And then after catching her drug addict father murdering a loan shark trying to collect from him, Kyle blackmails him into sending Hudgens to live with him. Christ, and you thought the Cullens had perfected creepy stalking. And an interminable hour later, they’re in love, and Kyle has learned to appreciate the true value of inner beauty by making out with Vanessa Hudgens. That moves so far past irony it’s practically uraniumy.
There’s so much wrong with this fetid excuse for a script that it feels like it was written by a thirteen year old who has never actually spoken to another person. And I’m not the only one who thought so. A pair of twenty-something women came in together and were the only ones in the theater with me. They left halfway through the film. They did not embrace the suck.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.