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Beautiful Creatures

Director: Richard LaGravenese
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum

(US DVD: 21 May 2013)

Beautiful Creatures is an adaptation of the young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, itself the first installment in a series called the Caster Chronicles. Before you’re thinking, oh no, it’s another Twilight... well, yes, it’s another Twilight. It seems that the wild success of Stephanie Meyers’ novels and the insane popularity of the subsequent film adaptations created yet another endless void in the universe of commercial filmmaking, whose only purpose is to be fulfilled.

This time around, the sexes are inverted and it’s the girl, Lena (Alice Englert) who has unwanted supernatural powers. She’s the new girl in high school who becomes the object of gossip when locals decide she’s a witch and that her uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) is a devil worshipper. Little do they know that in fact they’re half right, because while other girls her age are dealing with regular issues, Lena has to face the fact that upon turning 16 she will either become a good or bad witch, or “caster”.

Of course she wins the attention of a boy, who comes in the shape of Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a young sensitive type who recognizes Lena from some strange dreams he’s having and is determined to win her heart and solve the mystery. Soon, their families are conspiring to keep them apart and avoid some sort of catastrophic event which has been centuries in the making, but we’ve all seen how these movies go and we know that no spell will be powerful enough to keep two good looking young movie leads apart.

It’s a shame that Beautiful Creatures has so little to offer in terms of originality, because all of the talent involved is remarkable. Irons seems to be in a constant audition to play Liberace as if imagined by Christopher Lee, his Macon a severe symbol of power who has no trouble prancing around in brightly colored gowns and jewelry. His scene with Emma Thompson, who plays Lena’s evil mother Sarafina, are hilarious because of their dialogues, as much as because we’re watching two of the most respected actors in the English speaking world, being reduced to pawns in a nonsensical plot.

Emmy Rossum similarly, plays Ridley Duchannes, Lena’s even more evil cousin who visits town only to convince her cousin to join the dark side. Rossum, who always seems game to play ridiculous characters (remember The Phantom of the Opera?) does her best Shania Twain impression here, strutting around in high boots and transparent dresses while doing endless “that don’t impress me much” hand gestures. Even the respectable Viola Davis, who unarguably gets the short end of the stick when it comes to casting, is given so little to do here, that you wonder why she even took the part.

The problem might not be that these fine actors are doing terrible job, but that we as an audience realize it because they don’t seem really interested in what they’re doing. A lot must have to do with the fact that the romantic plot never really hooks us. We never really care if Lena and Ethan make it, because they are such dull characters that we wonder if they’re even alive to begin with. Parallel to their story there is an older version of their love, in which we see how one of Lena’s ancestors challenged her better judgment by casting a love spell that ended up destroying her life. It’s no coincidence that more often than not we wish we were watching that movie instead.

Instead of having Hollywood deliver more movies like these, we should start wondering what went wrong with younger audiences who became so complacent and now are only expecting to be fed the same stories told in slightly different ways. If the Twilight series set up a standard of mediocrity by which all future teen book adaptations would be measured against, it’s even sadder that Beautiful Creatures falls short of even achieving that. When a movie makes you yearn for Kristen Stewart, you know you’ve already turned into the dark side.

The Blu-ray release of the film features a stunning transfer, which adly allows the film’s sloppy visual effects to look even less like magic than they should. Bonus features include a making-of documentary, divided in short segments which chronicle the adaptation, casting and costume design among others. Also included are four deleted scenes, each more awful than the previous and teasers and trailers. Overall, Beautiful Creatures isn’t a recommended movie by any means and the fact that Irons, Davis and Thompson are working in movies of this sort makes one wish spells could be cast over the film industry to fix it.


Extras rating:

Jose Solís wanted to be a spy since he was a child, which is why by day he works as a content editor and by night he writes and dreams of film. Although he doesn’t travel the world fighting villains, his mission is to trek the planet from screen to screen. He has been writing about film since 2003 and regularly contributes to The Film Experience and PopMatters. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.

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