Review: 'Creatures' concocts familiar teen angst
This film image released by Warner Bros Pictures shows Thomas Mann, left, and Emmy Rossum in a scene from "Beautiful Creatures." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, John Bramley)
The genders have been reversed but the supernatural, star-crossed teen angst remains firmly intact in "Beautiful Creatures," which clearly aims to pick up where the "Twilight" franchise left off.
Writer-director Richard LaGravenese's film, based on the first novel in the young adult series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, oozes Southern Gothic eccentricity and some amusing if inconsistent touches of camp. (A droll, drawling Jeremy Irons sitting at the piano playing Chopin? Margo Martindale in a feathery hairclip, carrying a live peacock? Yes and yes, please.)
But a strong cast of likable and, yes, beautiful actors can only do so much with the formula in which they're forced to work. And, like the "Twilight" movies, the special effects are all-too often distractingly cheesy.
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Jeremy Irons, left, and Viola Davis in a scene from "Beautiful Creatures." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, John Bramley)
The setup breathes some new life into such familiar material, though, as co-stars Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert feel like actual awkward teens enjoying the fraught thrills of first love rather than slick, ironic kids who are too cool. Their first meeting, on a two-lane road during a downpour, has all the trappings of a romance novel but it's also an early indication of the lively chemistry they share.
Once the plot machinations start grinding in the second half, though, "Beautiful Creatures" as a whole grinds to a halt. Spells and scenery-chewing can be a hoot; watching other people sitting around scouring ancient tomes for clues, not so much.
Ehrenreich's character, 17-year-old Ethan Wate, grew up in the suffocating small town of Gatlin, S.C., and is dying to get out. He rebels against the local conservatism by reading all the banned books he can get his hands on, from "Slaughterhouse Five" to "Tropic of Cancer," and as he enters his junior year in high school, all he can think about is how far away he can go to college.