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Beautiful Creatures Movie Review

Beautiful Creatures (2013) movie poster Beautiful Creatures

Theatrical Release: February 14, 2013 / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Richard LaGravenese / Writers: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay); Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl (novel)

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich (Ethan Wate), Alice Englert (Lena Duchannes), Jeremy Irons (Macon Ravenwood), Viola Davis (Amma), Emmy Rossum (Ridley Duchannes), Thomas Mann (Wesley "Link" Lincoln), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Lincoln/Sarafine), Eileen Atkins (Gramma), Margo Martindale (Aunt Del), Zoey Deutch (Emily Asher), Tiffany Boone (Savannah Snow), Rachel Bronahan (Genevieve Duchannes), Kyle Gallner (Larkin Ravenwood), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Mr. Lee), Robin Skye (Mrs. Hester), Randy Redd (Reverend Stephens), Leslie Castay (Principal Herbert)

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Like The Twilight Saga, Beautiful Creatures adapts a young novel series and tells a story of teen romance with supernatural elements.
Thus, comparisons are inevitable, though Warner Bros. Pictures would be unrealistic to expect comparable financial returns out of this far less popular line. Still, the studio makes the wise decision to open the film on Valentine's Day, the one day of the year when romance movies are not just tolerated but eaten up in theaters.

Set in the fictional small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, Beautiful Creatures centers on Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a teenager who loves reading banned books. There is no shortage of those in this insular, religious, conservative community. Gatlin is quickly established as a leading character here. It's a town that's big on gossip and small on culture, having just one theater show a no longer new movie with an inaccurate marquee. Ethan longs to leave and is applying to colleges far away.

Move over Edward and Bella, there's a new teenaged human-supernatural couple in Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) and Amma (Viola Davis) are both more than meets the eye.

One of Gatlin's favorite topics of discussion is Macon Ravenwood, a Boo Radley-type recluse who hasn't been seen leaving the unkempt grounds of his mansion in years. The high school is abuzz with the arrival and enrollment of Ravenwood's niece, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Rumors swirl around the transfer student, alleging her to be a devil worshipper. Ethan doesn't share his classmates' xenophobia and in fact goes out of his way to be friendly to Lena. With his persistence trumping her resistance, a friendship is formed, to the secret objections of eccentric Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons).

It can't be too big a spoiler to reveal that Lena is, in fact, not like the other kids. She is a "caster", contemporary parlance for "witch", and her fast-approaching 16th birthday will determine her calling, to Good or Evil.

Ethan and Lena have a special bond; struggling with insomnia, he repeatedly dreamt of her before ever meeting her. Their love is obviously forbidden and appears to hold some bearing on the upcoming fork in the road Lena faces with little say in the matter.

Amma (Viola Davis), Lena (Alice Englert), and Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) do some supernatural research in the basement of the Gatlin Public Library.

I'm tempted to call Beautiful Creatures a little better than the Twilight films, but my opinion is shaped by the feeble Breaking Dawn - Part 1 and the sheer overkill of that vampire franchise. At its beginning and through Eclipse, it was passable entertainment whose appeal was plain to see.
That's pretty much where Beautiful Creatures stands one film in, although I'm skeptical we'll ever see a sequel.

There is substance to the town and the protagonist that one doesn't find in Forks or Bella Swan. Romance is obviously a focal part of the film, but it's somewhat underplayed, as we are given other threads to grab onto, most notably the looming issue of Lena's uncertain fate. The film manages to stave off outlandishness as much as it can. A scene in which Ethan is summoned to the Ravenwood mansion for a caster holiday feast that is mostly spent at a table spinning around in circles is kind of stupid and it isn't the only one.

Adapted and directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You, The Freedom Writers), Beautiful Creatures doesn't do the best job of storytelling, at least for those not coming in having read the 2009 novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Late in the film, I was confused and surprised to discover there were two distinct villains, not just one with the power to resemble others. That seems like critical information that should be spelled out more clearly than it is. There is also the never addressed mystery of why Ethan calls to his father and makes him breakfast, but neither he nor we ever see him, his parental figure instead being Amma (Viola Davis), a character with a secret.

It's surprising and daring to find characters, even villainous supernatural ones, declaring God to be, like love, a human invention. Less blasphemous but as annoying is the depiction of Christians as narrow-minded bigots. Does the religion's massive following really make it a fair target for hateful portrayals? Both of these issues appear to be addressed tidily in a brief moment painting Amma as a pious and good-hearted individual.

Decently acted and nicely shot, Beautiful Creatures cannot sustain the intrigue of its opening and literature-embodying setting. It delves into its supernatural mythology with a number of scenes of research set underneath a public library to place conflict in the way of a seemingly perfectly compatible young romance. Twilight's success is most readily attributed to its exploration of young love, so there is a chance that this film can resonate some beyond tonight's couples outings. But the movie feels longer than it is and doesn't come together in a way that will engage many adults or kids outside the targeted teen demographic. That, mixed with the film's closed ending suggests not much of a filmic future for this franchise.

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Related Reviews:
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Red Riding Hood
Witches: Hocus Pocus Stardust Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: The Second Season Brave
Alden Ehrenreich: Tetro | Thomas Mann: Fun Size Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Jeremy Irons: The Words The Lion King | Viola Davis: The Help Disturbia Doubt Eat Pray Love
Emma Thompson: Men in Black 3 Brideshead Revisited An Education Treasure Planet

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Reviewed February 14, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Warner Bros. Pictures, Alcon Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Belle Pictures.
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