Not to completely discredit myself, but the thing I liked most about the movie ‘Twilight’ was how screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg took all the things wrong with the book — sluggish pacing, a too-accurate portrayal of a high schooler’s repetitive daily routine, mediocre dialogue — and transformed it into a fast-paced, mystical romance film peppered with humor.
I was hoping for a similar Hollywood makeover for ‘Beautiful Creatures,’ but the magic fell flat. ‘Beautiful Creatures’ is a 2-¼-hour movie that feels like 3 hours based on a 560-page book that feels like 700.
The tale had potential to be the next big teen paranormal romance, a lucrative vein now that the end of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’ franchises has left tweens with money to burn. Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) finds himself smitten with Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the new, mysterious girl in a small southern town. When she reveals herself to be a Caster who will turn either Light or Dark on her 16th birthday, he’s sucked into a whirlwind of family drama and centuries-old curses that most mortals would shy away from. But Ethan is determined to prove their love is more powerful than magic, and he stays by Lena’s side despite both families forbidding it and dangerous supernatural occurrences that would scare away lesser gentleman callers.
The accents were surprisingly easy to get used to, once you forgave Jeremy Irons’ impeccable Foghorn Leghorn impersonation and Ehrenreich’s deep-south yokel drawl, ironic for a character so determined to distance himself from a town he considers backwards. The scenery was beautiful, and the depictions of magic were very well done. Many plot points from the book were thankfully left out of the movie, backing up an observation that it’s difficult to care much about The Big School Dance when a powerful Dark Caster might be about to be unleashed upon the world.
Some scenes felt so out of place, I’m not sure if an editor tripped while carrying the reels in order and wasn’t sure how to cut them back together. Perhaps I have a longer attention span than the intended demographic, but when a quiet scene of studying in a library is followed by a car-door-slamming fight of origins unknown by the side of a deserted highway, my spidey sense of story arcs tingles.
The dialogue was molasses slow, with some scenes bloated with so much unnecessary information, any glimmer of intensity came screeching to a halt. And the sassy one-liners hurled back at the mocking popular kids sounded more like an insult comic’s first trip to an open mic. At one point, Ethan’s ex Emily, jealous of his new relationship, tells him, “I pray every night that you don’t go straight to hell,” to which he replies, “Oh, I won’t go straight to hell, Emily. I’m gonna stop off at New York first.” Guys, I don’t even know what that means, but it’s delivered like she just got served. Although, by the way some tweens in the audience were hooting and laughing, maybe I need to update my sass.
Plot holes are often given a pass in supernatural tales. My favorite bit of snark on the Harry Potter series is wondering why no one used the Time Turner from ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ to undo Dumbledore’s death or, I don’t know, stop Harry Potter’s parents from even being killed in the first place. Still, when you’re in a dark theater with surround sound and a 50-foot screen, you’re supposed to be drawn into the world, not questioning how certain spells in ‘Beautiful Creatures’ only work on some people and no one seems to notice. The final scenes of the film are quite a departure from the book, which makes one wonder why they opted for one with so many inconsistencies, rather than the comparatively believable — and more tense and moving — book version.
Pacing annoyances, odd dialogue, and plot holes aside, ‘Beautiful Creatures’ had no rising action. The audience is just basically waiting for Lena’s birthday while watching two teenagers have fights, get back together, be forbidden to see each other, see each other anyway, have a fight about it, get back together. There’s a sense in the third act that it’s truly dangerous for Lena and Ethan to stay together and that there is a huge price for breaking the family curse. Only the ramifications of breaking the curse — and what exactly the curse entails; maybe it’s not so bad — is so hazy and different from book. I asked those around me afterwards if it truly was that unclear or if I needed to visit a doctor about memory loss. After several minutes of conversation, we adults were able to piece together just exactly what this tween movie was trying to get across. I think.
I found myself yearning for the straightforwardness and heart of the book, which, considering I rated the book 1.5 of 5 atoms, was a pretty sad state of affairs. I had second-hand embarrassment for the more talented members of the cast, but if the entire currently four-book series gets brought to the big screen, I suppose you can’t argue with a Beautiful Paycheck.
Watch this movie for the graphical effects, enchanting soundtrack, and welcomed lack of brooding vampires. Just maybe wait until it comes to Netflix Instant.
How Well the Movie Portrayed the Book: