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By Brian Lafferty

February 15, 2013 (San Diego) – The Twilight movies are easy targets for online hostility and teasing.  But at least those movies, as lifeless as they are to me (I gave up after the second one), respect their audience, especially their target young adult audience.  They don't insult anyone’s intelligence.  Beautiful Creatures, inspired by (or, rather, ripped off from) the Twilight series is offensive, rife with exaggerated phony accents, Southern stereotypes, hammy acting, and dialogue so awkward and bad that it confounds the actors who have to say these lines.  I’m surprised my neck didn’t get stiff from all the double takes.  Beautiful Creatures is downright insulting towards not just the general audience, but also particularly its target young adult audience and their intelligence, and the flagrancy of it is appalling.

LaGravenese adapts from the popular young adult book of the same name.  It's set in a small South Carolina town that embodies every bad and unfair stereotype of Southern values.  Movies don't open in theaters until they're out on DVD and when they do, it's invariably misspelled.  (The only time I laughed was when the marquee read “Interception starring Leonardo DiCaprio.”)  There are more banned books than books to read.  Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich using a gratingly awful Southern accent) meets Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the new girl in town.  It turns out she comes from a bloodline of Casters (a nicer term for Witches) and on her 16th birthday, her powers will either be Light or Dark.

Characters speak such dialogue as “Could you insult me in the car?  It’s getting like the Titanic in the end.”  LaGravenese's screenplay is a hypocritical discourse in prejudice.  Lena and her family are treated with hostility because they live way out of town, their house attracts lightning, and they dress in dark clothes.  They are not, in the town's view, "normal" people.  But according to the movie’s preconceived notion of how people are supposed to act and talk, all the high school girls that aren’t Lena are ditzy modernized Southern Belles and the adults are aggressively moralist Bible-thumpers who champion and impose upon people values that are increasingly becoming dated in a more tolerant 21st century.  "Normal" is a relative term.  In Beautiful Creatures it's even more so. 

Even worse, the screenplay has an annoying habit of repeating the same scenes multiple times, a habit that stunts the movie's already lifeless flow.  It's bad enough that LaGravenese inserts scenes that don't propel the plot forward or develop the characters.  He compounds the issue by writing the exact same scenes about prejudice, fate, and love at least half a dozen times without adding anything new each time.  I got the point the first time.  If these scenes were excised, the movie would be a more tolerable hour and a half instead of two-plus agonizingly long hours.

Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot's color palette and lighting designs are ugly.  The color timing and lighting of the daylight scenes are either too harsh or too soft.  Some people following the pitfalls of the digital age, when among other publicized offenses, theaters are too lazy to remove light and color-sucking 3D lenses for 2D showings, will blame the projectors.  But a bad projector can't explain the ugly monochromatic night scenes in which everything - actors, vegetation, etc. - is a hideous shade of blue.

The special effects aren't very special.  (But then what passes for special in these CGI days?)  In one scene, a “fight” between Lena and Ridley (Emmy Rossum) plays out at the dinner table.  They both cause the table to spin and move like the Tea Cups at Disneyland.  It's both ridiculous and downright goofy.  The other special effects are cheesy and perfunctory. 

Beautiful Creatures is annoying and shrill, a waste of the talents of a fine supporting cast (which includes Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, and Viola Davis) and starring leads that possess zero chemistry and star power.  To say Beautiful Creatures has the fingernails on the blackboard effect would be an insult to both fingernails and blackboards.


Beautiful Creatures is now playing in wide release.

A Warner Bros. Pictures release.  Director:  Richard LaGravenese.  Screenplay:  Richard LaGravenese, based on the novel Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  Original Music:  Thenewno2.  Cinematography:  Philippe Rousselot.  Cast:  Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, and Margo Martindale.  Running time:  124 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Brian Lafferty welcomes letters at brian@eastcountymagazine.org.  You can also follow him on Twitter:  @BrianLaff.


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