Team Edward vs. Team Jacob is so last year. With "Twilight" faded into the twilight, fans of the Stephanie Meyer sparkly vampires need a new fix. And Meyer herself is stepping up with what she hopes will fill that need in the form of the new sci-fi soap "The Host."
What's It About?
It's a dystopia and a, yes, sparkly race of aliens (they look a little like tinselly electric cat toys) have largely taken over the carnal bodies of the human race. Old-schoolers might be reminded of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Tweeners might want to think of the aliens as iPods and humans as the docks.
So, what have those eco-friendly aliens brought to Earth? There's prosperity, health and no reality shows worth watching. But those pesky humans, with their desires and passions and loyalties, have mounted a minor resistance. Go figure.
An aggressive Seeker (Diane Kruger) charged with chasing down the few remaining free humans captures rebellious Melanie (Soairse Ronan). The Seeker then implants Melanie with a twinkly alien called Wanderer, soon to be nicknamed Wanda. The plan is to follow the implant-and-host back to the rebel base in classic "Take me to your leader" style.
Will Wanda supplant Melanie -- or will the pair unite to save the human race (and kiss a lot of pretty boys along the way)? Duh.
Let's Hear It for the Girl
Ronan, who earned an Oscar nomination for playing a wicked little sister in "Atonement," and played the dead daughter at the center of the underwhelming "The Lovely Bones," has a purity and simplicity that's very different from Kristen Stewart and her grunge goddess-turned-bloodsucker. Ronan is the kind and spunky girl-next-door would wouldn't mind babysitting in the post-apocalypse.
The actress has the unenviable task of having to play a human and an alien talking to each other inside a single head. While this is distracting in the early parts of the movie, it's amazing how the movie wins its audience (of teenage age girls and their moms) over by making that schizo relationship relatable.
Pretty Boys Is an Understatement
Knowing how to milk a good thing, Meyer replaces "Twilight's" Bella-Edward-Jacob triangle with a different version in "The Host." We have a pair of pretty boys -- Ian (Jake Abel) and Jared (Max "Son of Jeremy" Irons) -- competing, respectively, for the love of Wanda and Melanie.
(In tween shorthand, these dudes are known as Tumblr Boys, as in the social media destination where young girls go to check out hotties.)
If there is a problem with this year's model, is that they're all a little similar -- pouty-lipped, broody stares, hot abs and dirty blond. OK, but let's not complain. They do make Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson -- dark and light meat -- seem like a dusty exhibit at Madame Tussauds.
It's Complicated -- Consummated
While the movie has plenty of snogging -- in the rain, in the sunny rain, in the rainy rain, and in the dessert -- it goes the distance that it took "Twilight" so many sequels to achieve. Jared and Melanie very discretely but clearly do the nasty, with draped sheets and a sliver of male butt cheek. And, in scenes bordering on teen sex farce, when Wanda uses Melanie's lips to kiss Jared, Melanie slaps his face.
Now, Rent "Hanna"
Now that you're clear on how to pronounce 18-year-old actress Saoirse -- rhymes with inertia -- Ronan, you have to dial back to her severly overlooked action film "Hanna," with Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. In that movie, directed by Joe Wright, she is the teenage version of Jason Bourne -- an assassin in search of her own true identity with a killer survival instinct.
Critics, Begone: "The Host" Defines Chick Flick
Forget the professional critics -- mostly male, mostly middle-aged -- hardly the ones to channel their inner teenaged girls outside of therapy.
They didn't get "Twilight." They didn't get "Hunger Games." They hardly got "The Help."
Sure, teenage girls can be the harshest critics - of each other's hair, clothes, musical taste. But "The Host," riding on the chemistry of the young actors, clicked with my inner adolescent. And, more importantly, it passed muster with my 13-year-old daughter.
As she deemed the film post-screening: "Shockingly good."
Watch the theatrical trailer for 'The Host':