“Beautiful Creatures’” debut on the big screen served as just another link in the chain of the new age teen paranormal-romance book-to-film adaptations that crowd the bookshelves in Barnes and Noble and rake in the cash at the box office. Characterized by teen angst and sexual frustration in small towns, “Beautiful Creatures” (originally written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl) does deliver on the impossible, improbable and impractical. It falls short, however, on a critical element in the chase for fandom in the teenage heart; I am, of course, referring to the “sexy” qualities prevalent in the recent surge of vampire and paranormal feels. Director Richard LeGravanese and the casting directors supplied a mediocre finish with a subpar cast for a more-than-enough creative idea, which made for a disappointing Valentine’s Day release.
The film begins with a young, fit male athlete who (surprise, surprise) is struggling to cope with his normal, everyday life as an intelligent stud stuck in a small town. Portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich, Ethan Wate serves as an interesting, yet absurd combination of liberalism and southern hospitality; he reads Charles Bukowski and J.D. Salinger while walking out the door to drown himself in a blasting of incoherent country music. It is these absurdities in contradiction to the general flow of the movie that leave the audience confused as to whether the writer wishes to immerse viewers in a flow of Southern clichés, or paint a more liberal picture of a young individual who can rise above the growing cloud of insecurity and bigotry of the town.
Ethan Wate, of course, is already paired with beautiful high school sweetheart Emily (Zoey Deutch), and is followed around closely by his best friend Link (Thomas Mann). The story quickly escalates as Ethan eyes one Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), who plays the “Carrie” role of a misunderstood girl who moves into a Southern town, shrouded in mystery and suspicion. Ethan and Lena quickly develop a relationship, which contradicts the guarded, impenetrable trivialities that surround Lena earlier in the film.
Before long, Ethan and Lena encounter “Horcrux” issues as they come across an object cursed by the dark side witch Sarafine (Emma Thompson). These points in the film leave much to be desired across the board for both avid moviegoers and the casual audience alike. The scenes are convoluted by elements of magic, which are compounded with strange scenes of natural phenomena. In one scene, Ethan is nearly eaten alive before it is revealed that the house has been cursed by Lena’s uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) for security purposes. The relationship between Macon, the town and Ethan is rather trite and thrown together sloppily, with threads that are never fully developed or realized during the story.
Lena is forced by her ancestry and existence as a “Caster” to go through a transformation to either “light” or “dark,” and she has a limited number of days with her muse before she is “claimed.” Despite the banal concept of light versus darkness, I found myself wanting to appreciate the sense of helplessness that would arise from such a situation. But the characters failed to truly convey the emotion of the situation, as the relationship between the two lovers continues to develop and each individual fails to grow as a person. Not only do the characters lack the sex appeal that is prevalent in movies today, but they lack fantastic performance and relatability as well.
The adaptation does benefit from an interesting plot twist from the end of the original novel, though it is followed immediately by a predictable result, and an even more predictable anti-climactic battle that leave the viewer with a lukewarm taste. Although there were interesting performances by one-time young actress extraordinaire Emmy Rossum, and by rising actor Thomas Mann, the cast as a whole did not deliver in a genre that requires sex appeal. It seems as though a cast of complementary characters was forced into lead roles.
With competition like the new, flashy Bruce Willis flick and compelling dramas hitting the theaters, concept alone does not carry “Beautiful Creatures” at the weekend box office, as it falls into an ambiguous and undecided blend of clichés and poor acting.
Rating: 1 star