BEAUTIFUL CREATURES review by Gary Murray

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES review by Gary Murray


Twilight has been a juggernaut of success. The worldwide phenomenon has generated millions at the box office and legions of teen fans. Well, since nothing is more successful than piling on to success, other studios have been looking for their own niche in this market. We have recently gotten the fun little zombie romantic comedy Warm Bodies and now we have the supernatural take on the idea with Beautiful Creatures.

The story takes place in rural southern town of Gatlin, site of a Civil War battle. Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is a bright, literate high school boy in a town that doesn’t put much stock in such things. He has only one goal, to get out of town and to a better life.

One day, a new girl arrives in his class. Lena Duchannnes (Alice Englert) is the niece of the founding family of the town. All the local yokels believe that the family is part of something evil. Everyone shows an outward distain for the young woman, someone they do not know.

That is everyone but Ethan. He is drawn to the mysterious creature in ways he can neither comprehend nor understand. We soon find that Lena has magical powers she can barely control. We also find that the spirits of these two young people have been drawn to each other since the War Between the States. As Lena reaches her sixteenth birthday, the Claiming of her soul will happen. She can either be taken by The Dark or The Light.

Her uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) wants to make sure that the girl changes to the Light side. He knows that any relationship between her and a mortal is endangering. Doing everything in his powers, this man wants to make sure she is safe. On the other side is Sarafine (Emma Thompson). She is a shape-shifter who has some very nefarious plans for the pure young woman. Lena’s older sister Ridley (Emmy Rossum) has already been claimed by the Dark.

Talk about your Romeo and Juliet story. As the movie spills out, we find that everything goes back to a curse from over 100 years ago. The curse can only be lifted if someone Lena loves dies. The script goes from teen romance to flights of fantasy, weaving the two ideas like two tapestry colors that do not work together. It hurls along without much rhyme or rhythm, as if the producers just decided to throw everything they could think of on the screen and see what would cinematically stick. It is an exercise in frustration.

The film is, in a word, boring. Director Richard LeGravenese never finds an emotional connection between any cast members. At times, it feels as if they are all performing in different films. As the film laces its less than enchanted spell, the principles look as confused as the audience feels.

The other problem with the film is in the casting. Alden Ehrenreich comes across more as Gomer Pyle than Robert Pattinson. He doesn’t possess as much southern charm as he possesses the mannerisms of a classic southern rube. The film would have been better off with a more interesting lead.

On the other hand, Alice Englert comes across much better. This young tormented waif is a mirror of the audience this is aimed directly at. She does a good job of conveying the angst-filled girl on the way to womanhood. We feel sorry for her plight and that she has to be in this silly little flick.

The other adults go so over the top that it is a wonder if anyone thought for one moment to restrain them. Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson don’t just chew on the scenery, they devour every bit of it. These two fuss and fume over each other with a ravenous glee that begets the worst of overacting. Emmy Rossum looks almost restrained in a skin-tight leopard outfit. Only Viola Davis holds the slightest fragment of dignity in the proceedings.

The film plays like second-hand Twilight but I would much rather watch it again than be subjected to the ‘romance’ that is Bella and Edward. There are about a dozen hours of Twilight one would have to get through and only one Beautiful Creatures… though to be honest, one seems to be enough.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES opens February 14, 2013

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