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Film Review: Gothic snoozer 'Beautiful Creatures' isn't quite as dim as 'Twilight'

February 15, 2013|By Andy Klein
  • Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes and Jeremy Irons as Macon Ravenwood in Alcon Entertainment's supernatural love story "Beautiful Creatures."
Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes and Jeremy Irons as Macon… (Courtesy of Warner…)

I never thought I'd regret not having reviewed any of the "Twilight" series. Now I do, because it would have been only a few moments' work to cut and paste several paragraphs, run some search-and-replaces ("caster" for "vampire," "Ethan" for "Belle"), and fob the whole thing off as a review of the new "Beautiful Creatures."

Written (from the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl) and directed by Richard LaGravenese (who wrote “Ref” and “The Fisher King”), the film rigorously follows the “I Loved a Teenage [Supernatural Being of Some Sort]” conventions, presumably in an effort to tap the same audience that made the “Twilight” films a cash machine. I'm neither chronologically nor hormonally eligible for membership in said audience: If I were, perhaps I would have gone as misty-eyed over Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lena (Alice Englert) as I already surely would have over Bella, Edward and Jacob.

The movie starts with an expository voice over, in which Ethan lets us know that he lives in Gatlin, S.C., that his dad has been incapacitated with grief since mom died, and that he dreams (literally) of a beautiful stranger. Unlike the viewers, he is genuinely gobsmacked when she materializes as the new girl in class, Lena Duchannes (pronounced dew-cain). The Duchannes clan owns half the town plus an appropriately Gothic estate called Ravenswood Manor. The manse is occupied by reclusive Macon Duchannes (Jeremy Irons), who, like others in his family for at least 150 years, is believed to be a Satanist.

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This rumor turns out to be not entirely baseless: The Duchannes may not worship Lucifer, but they are “casters” — that's witches and warlocks to you and me. They sport supernatural powers in a variety of configurations. Lena is believed to be the strongest of their kind in a bunch of years; and she is a few months short of her 16th birthday, when she will be revealed as a Light or Dark caster, according to her true nature. Despite this affiliation being apparently predetermined, the Darks — led by her mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson, in a Hyde-and-Hyde dual role) — are trying to convince her or seduce her or otherwise get her to pick the Dark side.

All of this grows more complicated when Lena and Ethan fall in love. (Who'd a-thunk?)

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