Ethan longs to escape his small Southern town. He meets a mysterious new girl, Lena. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town.
Director: Richard LaGravenese Writers: Richard LaGravenese, Kami Garcia Stars: Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson
The first half of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES actually isn't half bad. LaGravenese opts for this wildly over-the-top vibe, with the southern townsfolk coming off as caricatures right out of THE MUSIC MAN. Usually this silly approach would turn me off, but it works in this kind of heightened reality. The performances, especially by the gonzo Thompson, and an occasionally hammy Irons (his Foghorn Leghorn accent doesn't help) seem deliberately overboard, as does the set design- with the interior of Irons' house looking like it was lifted out of BEETLEJUICE. Still, rather than being a turn-off, it feels almost refreshing considering how downbeat and morose TWILIGHT was.
Most importantly, the two teens are decent, with Ehrenreich making a likable protagonist, and Englert hitting the right notes as the outcast sorceress (who, as if we didn't know she was a rebel, reads Charles Bukowski for fun). The real trouble starts to set in about an hour into the movie, once LaGravenese switches his focus to the central conflict, which is whether or not Lena is going to “go dark.” Most of the second hour is spent trying to find a way to prevent that from happening, which leads to loads of boring exposition and scenes of people looking through ancient spell books- that might have been fun on the page, but is deadly dull in a film. Things liven up a bit when Rossum shows up as a siren-like baddie, with designs on Ethan, but she's not given enough of a part to really make an impression (although a scene where she slinks around in Rita Hayworth's dress from GILDA has her looking incredibly sexy).
However, I fully realize that I'm not the target audience for a movie like BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, which is clearly meant for tween girls. That's the audience Warner Bros., will need to corner if this is going to be a viable franchise, but to me it seems far too bland to make it that far. It's not atrociously bad, but despite a promising start, it's nothing you haven't seen done a million times before. Maybe the books are a fun read for kids, but the movie is pretty dull.