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“Beautiful Creatures”: bad plot overshadows good romance

TWO OUT OF FIVE STARS

Viola Davis is a supporting actress in "Beautiful Creatures." (MCT CAMPUS)
Viola Davis is a supporting actress in “Beautiful Creatures.” (MCT CAMPUS)

Expectations for the casual movie viewer were probably not high for “Beautiful Creatures,” which is Hollywood’s latest attempt to fill the fantasy romance franchise gap that the “Twilight” franchise left after it concluded last November.

Hollywood tried to sell “Warm Bodies,” the story of a girl who falls for an emotionally-conflicted and deep-thinking teenager…who was also a zombie. “Warm Bodies,” though a noble attempt, was dead on arrival (no pun intended). Zombie romance was original in its concept, but love with witches seemed too bland considering it has been done before in TV and film.

One thing that can make a movie work well is chemistry between the cast members, while one thing that could destroy a movie is a ridiculous plot. Both are featured in this adaptation of the 2009 novel of the same name, and both make the film somewhat passable entertainment.

In the town of Gatlin, South Carolina, lives Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a junior in high school who longs to leave his conservative, single-minded hick town that treats an annual Civil War reenactment like a religious ceremony and write books on par with Kurt Vonnegut. Ethan lives with an unseen father (his mother passed away earlier), so he is primarily cared for by the town librarian, Amma (Oscar nominee Viola Davis). He returns to school of his junior year to a new girl in his class and his town.

Her name is Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), but the kids in school tease her for being the niece of old man Ravenwood, the town shut-in. Lena disturbs the church-going Dixie girls in school, but she entices Ethan because he believes he has had dreams about her before. Her disdain for the uptight kids in town and interest in books on loneliness and the inner self only makes Ethan more curious. He pursues Lena and eventually meets old man Ravenwood, Macon (Oscar winner Jeremy Irons), who wants Lena away from this boy. Eventually, Lena tells Ethan that she is a “caster” and that she is to be “claimed” for either the light or dark on her 16th birthday.

Lena, her guard let down, adores Ethan but does not want him to experience her family. This includes her cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) and her mother, Sarafine (Oscar winner Emma Thompson), who is also the greatest dark caster alive. Lena is torn between her supposed destiny and her desired love, but she fears losing control of herself more than losing Ethan.

Yes, Lena’s choice is very typical of teen love stories, and it is very cheesy. On the plus side, Lena and Ethan do make a cute couple.

Ehrenreich and Englert are newcomers to the big screen, but they share great chemistry. Ehrenreich’s Ethan is funny and charming as can be, and he matches with the alluring Englert.

Irons and Thompson are two world-class actors who deserve better movies than this, but they both have a ball wearing high class clothing and casting spells, especially when they trade words face to face. Rossum looks better than anyone else in the movie, but, then again, she plays a seductress, so it is understandable.

What hurts “Beautiful Creatures” is the entire plot itself. The witch plot is not interesting at all, and the cheap special effects do not help matters much. If the movie had better screenwriting and eliminated the entire witch subplot, it could have been an enjoyable romantic comedy.

“Beautiful Creatures” is more entertaining than “Warm Bodies” and has a better romantic couple than anything in all five “Twilight” films, so this should be a great date movie to have in your arsenal when you are with your partner cuddling on the couch. But alas, writer-director Richard LaGravenese remains faithful to the novel and its fan base, which is sad because the transition from book to movie is dull.

 

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