(Note: For whatever reason, this review took longer than usual to construct; probably because it’s been a while since a decent entry in this respective genre has come along. Thanks for the jadedness "Twilight Saga!")
"Beautiful Creatures" enchants all while providing multiple rays of hope for the supernatural-teen-fantasy-romance-whatever genre. The 124 minutes dances with a group of supes (short for supernatural) that has found theatrical success before: Witches.
In other words: Eat your lifeless/uninspired heart out, Twilight.
The thorough screenplay starts out similar to the rest of like-minded products: In a remote high school setting. And this is the only time you may yearn for vampires and werewolves again (if ever) during the formulaic opening. However, plot elements vastly improve as the script opens up and spends a decent amount of time introducing one to witches’ lore. Yep, for a change this story is just as much about a battle of witches (known as “Casters”) as it is a forbidden teenage romance.
Oh, and the balance of veteran performers with young blood talent is blended into a tasty brew.
Ethan (Alden Ehreneich) is about to begin his junior year and is ecstatic that he can start applying to colleges. The quintessential popular kid just wants out of his tiny southern town that may have two stoplights and revolves around Civil War reenactments. He fears being stuck in this existence forever and will do anything to escape. While focused on the long-term task at hand, his attention shifts to a quiet new girl by the name of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). She is the niece of the town recluse Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons); whom everyone in the bible thumping community believes to be a devil-worshiping drunk.
As Ethan persists in getting to know the standoffish Lena, a few out-of-the-ordinary guests (led by Emmy Rossum) descend upon the country town, with a particular interest in Lena’s prophesized 16th birthday celebration.
Despite a few technical quirks here-and-there (choppy editing), this entrances you as it showcases an assortment of spells, engaging set designs, and substantial banter between the characters. A lot of the conversations heard in this cinematic genre realm are empty and rushed. What stimulates the brain is how writer/director Richard LaGravenese ("The Fisher King," "P.S. I Love You") allowed each character time to breathe and make a connection with the audience; for they are all vastly different even though their arcs can be surmised with relative ease. But that’s where credit needs to be cast upon (pun intended) the performers (which includes the always sturdy Viola Davis and Emma Thompson), as they all enact charismatic personas to help sell the two angles (Do anything for love & Good vs. Evil commentary) throughout the fairly layered storytelling.
What pulls it all together is the script has a true understanding of how each character would react when dealing with the unknown; in this case, witchcraft. One of the biggest issues with say a "Twilight" flick was that “Bella” just accepted the fact that there are vamps and werewolves; which made everything just laughable. With "Beautiful Creatures," the Ethan character questions things that are brought in front of him, just as the audience would, as he delves deeper into Lena’s world. And that does lead to some laughs, yet they are genuine as opposed to mocking. But the tone never goes into full-blown wink-at-the-audience mode, and therefore, finds that aforementioned balance between CGI executed moments and legit interpersonal drama that is blessed with an intelligent thought.
Beautiful Creatures is rated PG-13 and opens in the Tampa Bay market on Valentine's Day.