The next Twilight franchise is here, but with a twist: Beautiful Creatures, about a teenage boy who is drawn to a strange girl who has a strange family (sound familiar?), actually has intelligent writing. Shocking. Breathtaking. And kind of fun.
Beautiful Creatures follows popular doofus Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), who unlike most other people in his Podunk, South Carolina town aspires to live anywhere but Podunk, South Carolina. Stereotypes ensue until a new girl named Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) shows up and rocks his world. In part because her uncle is a flaming Jeremy Irons. Also, she is a witch.
Sort of a bitchy witch, but a witch nonetheless.
The two fall pointy hat head over heels in love with another in the way that teenagers in supernatural romance stories tend to do. Naturally, there is a not-so-pleasant witch in town, too, who wants to convert Lena to the Dark Side of the Force. Or the Dark. Unfortunately for Lena, unlike in Star Wars, she doesn’t get to choose, sort of like how Bella had no choice between a sparkling dead man and a horny dog. Oh, wait.
The similarities to Twilight are plentiful, but Beautiful Creatures exceeds expectations in two key areas:
- The writing is significantly better. Beautiful Creatures has a creative edginess to it that, while not remarkable on its own, is a pleasant surprise for this genre. Writer/director Richard LaGravenese bolts out of the gate with amusing narration by Ethan, and the movie picks up from there.
- The acting is notably better, too. Ehrenreich has charisma, charm and authenticity and Englert has a cool sweetness about her that was completely absent in the Twilight movies. The chemistry between the two leads is, amazingly, surprisingly fun to watch. Viola Davis is also good in a supporting role, even though her character is poorly developed are pretty useless.
Unfortunately, LaGravenese is a better writer than he is an action director. Beautiful Creature’s struggles when some type of magic is happening; between the sometimes cheap-looking special effects and clunky pacing, the movie never hits a consistent stride. LaGravenese doesn’t alternate between the romantic elements and everything else all that well; it thrives when Ehrenreich and Englert are on screen together, but ranges between moderately entertaining and mediocre when something “exciting” is occurring.
Bottom line: the movie isn’t nearly as thrilling or awe-inspiring as it could and should have been.
Still, when you’re expecting Twilight and get something better, it’s a time for celebration. Beautiful Creatures will appeal to the young girls just like the books presumably have, but it’s also a tolerable form of entertainment for the rest of us, too.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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