‘Beautiful Creatures’ is testament to moribund state of originality - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

‘Beautiful Creatures’ is testament to moribund state of originality

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Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:49 am | Updated: 1:39 pm, Tue Sep 30, 2014.

“Beautiful Creatures” is yet another addition to the unendurable genre of “Twilight” wannabes. The fact that “Twilight” could inspire so many shameless copycats in both the mediums of film and literature is a true testament to the moribund state of originality. Compared to the effortless “I Am Number Four” and the inexplicably laughable “Red Riding Hood,” “Beautiful Creatures” may not be the worst of the “Twilight” rip-offs. Heck, it’s actually a major step up from any of the five “Twilight” movies. But not even the occasional impressive set piece or clever twist can save “Beautiful Creatures” from its perceptible longing to be the next fantasy romance phenomenon.

Alden Ehrenreich gives a respectable performance as Ethan Wate, a young teenager with a departed mother and an absent father. His only parental figure is Amma, the African American help played by Viola Davis. Ethan is constantly complaining that nothing ever happens in his small, Southern town. Naturally this means that something wicked is about to come to Ethan’s community in the form of a strange new girl. Alice Englert is Lena Duchannes, the niece of Jeremy Irons’ mysterious Old Man Ravenwood.

Ethan soon learns that Lena comes from a long line of witches, or casters to be politically correct. The opening scenes exemplify some promise as Ethan discovers his feelings for Lena and the secrets of her world. The more the audience learns about Lena’s culture though, the less inspired the world of “Beautiful Creatures” becomes. With her next birthday on the horizon, Lena will either be claimed by the light side or swallowed by darkness. Thus, “Beautiful Creatures” establishes itself as another cliché story about mystical beings torn between the one-dimensional forces of good and evil. Yawn.

Lena has a colorful extended family, all of which dress like the Volturi from “Twilight” meets the cast of “Dark Shadows.” Although they have potential to be interesting, most of them don’t get in more than a few words edgewise and serve little purpose to the plot. The only one who is even remotely entertaining is Emmy Rossum as Ridley, Lena’s slutty cousin who has gone to the dark side. Her screen time is unfortunately limited. As for the rest of the town, they’re all a bunch of cookie-cutter, condescending Southern stereotypes that are uneducated, ignorant, and religious to a hostile extent. The worst of all these stock characters is Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lincoln, who acts as the ringleader against Lena’s family. It doesn’t help that most of these actors are completely butchering the Southern dialect. Irons and Thompson may be exceptional performers, but their native British accents are constantly at odds against their phony Southern accents. It’s about as genuine as something you’d hear on a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

Director/screenwriting Richard LaGravenese has certainly made a nice looking movie with splendid art direction and costume design. Even if Ehrenreich and Englert don’t have amazing chemistry, at least there’s more awe to their romance than Edward and Bella’s. On the whole though, “Beautiful Creatures” is just bland, boring, and lacking in any magic. This is the first adaptation of the somewhat popular saga by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Nobody will likely complain if the other three books in the series fail to receive a film treatment.

• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.edu.

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