Beautiful Creatures Review

, Saturday, 02 March 2013 18:58 Written by 
Beautiful Creatures Review
  • Director: Richard LaGravenese
    Writer: Richard LaGravanese
    Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Thomas Mann, Emmy Rossum.
    Run Time: 124 mins
    2 stars 

Based on one of four novels in the Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures is yet another entry in the young adult, supernatural romance genre made inexplicably popular by Twilight. Even before that saga came to an end, many stories were being lined up to plug the gap in that extremely lucrative market. Beautiful Creatures makes an admirable stab at it but early signs at the box office suggest this isn't the franchise to win the hearts of tween fans.

Set in the small South Carolina town of Gatlin, Beautiful Creatures gets off to a good start. Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) is a friendly, boy-next-door type who is desperate to finish high school and escape the confines of Gatlin, especially since the death of his mother. He now lives with his father - who we never see - and is cared for by his housekeeper Amma (Viola Davis).

Ethan's peaceful high school existence is soon turned upside down by the arrival of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), a dark, brooding girl who all the popular kids instantly label as a satanist thanks to the reputation of her uncle, the reclusive Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons). Ethan is immediately taken in by Lena's dark charisma and she can't help but fall for his relentless charm, leading to a sweet, good-natured relationship. There's a fantastic chemistry between Ehrenreich and Englert and their relationship always seems natural. There's a light, playful tone to the first act of the film thanks to the strong leading performances that makes this film feel like a breath of fresh air compared to the overly serious Twilight.

But then the mythology kicks in. We soon find out that Lena is actually a witch and come her 16th birthday, she'll be called to either the good side or the dark side depending on her true nature. Her uncle Macon brought her to Gatlin to ensure she ends up good but there are forces at work trying to turn her to the dark side, including her nefarious cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) who comes roaring into town in a Ferrari and seduces all the local men into doing her bidding. As soon as all of this plot kicks in, the film completely grinds to a halt. The whole middle section of the film descends into a mess of dull exposition and bland mythology that eventually becomes hard to follow or care about.

The mysterious Southern Gothic setting is appealing but most of the peripheral characters are nothing more than flimsy small-town clichés, none worse than Emma Thompson's over-the-top bible-basher. Thompson takes her performance so far as to become laughable, particularly as she resorts to slapping herself in the face at one point.

So despite its affable leads and their excellent chemistry, Beautiful Creatures is ultimately sunk by a saggy runtime and an overabundance of dull exposition that undoes all of the good work done in the fun, flighty first act.

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