The race is on to fill that vacuum created by the release of the last Twilight film.
Movie studios have this obsession. They green light films in a genre until they grow tired and unoriginal. Someone forgot to tell them that the Twilight franchise effectively accomplished that all by its lonesome and in the process possibly taking much of the box office gold to be mined.
But who can really ever predict what movie fans will enjoy? The studios are going to try and they deserve credit for persistence. In the case of Beautiful Creatures it proves even to be a noble effort – one that actually burns out.
Unlike predecessors, Beautiful Creatures, which is based on the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl , actually offers characters that are downright likeable and initially fun to watch before being dragged into a messy, out-of-sync plot.
As as Ethan Wate, Alden Ehrenreich is not only likeable, but he’s incredibly charming, very intelligent and will make young hearts flutter.
Ditto for his leading lady, Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes, who isn’t the typical mopey teen girl that normally populates these films. She’s feisty, fun and a victim of circumstance and her birthright.
Lena is a caster, a politically correct label given to a modern day witch. She comes to the small South Carolina town of her ancestors because she’s about to reach the magic age of 16 when it is determined whether she will be force for dark or light.
Her uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) brings her there to ensure that she basks in the glow of the light. The problem is her cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) long ago stepped into the dark and now wants to bring Lena with her. To watch the intra-family wrangling is part of the fun of Beautiful Creatures, but that quickly ends.
The screenplay, adapted by director-writer Richard LaGravenese (Water for Elephants), pokes its fun at the intolerance of small southern towns with some biting commentary via the main characters who know that there’s something beyond their insulated, biblically ruled lives.
And while for much of the first hour, LaGravenese gets things right with respect to tone, the characters and striking a balance between humor and drama, Beautiful Creatures falls apart during the second half rendering everything accomplished moot.
He can thank his leads and that supporting cast of Irons and the forever gracious and delightfully malevolent Emma Thompson as a matron of the South for breathing some life in the film during those awkward moments when everyone can tell that something’s gone awry.
Beautiful Creatures is almost like two films, one a simple love story that works and the other a supernatural dramedy that doesn’t work at all and ultimately devolves into camp.
The eventual loser is the audience that invests time in something that looks and feels promising only to have the rug pulled from them in the end.
Movie: Beautiful Creatures
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, some scary images and sexual situations.
Running time: 124 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com