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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
• Six Behind the Scenes Featurettes
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Trailer & TV Spots
• Preview for another young adult book that full-blown adults will read and then try to convince you how great and mature it is.
A silly tale of forbidden love between mortal and teen witch.
Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, starring Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, and Emma Thompson.
Ethan’s dreary small-town existence is shaken up when new girl Lena woos him with her witchy charms. But Lena’s reclusive family isn’t happy with her new relationship with this mortal wimp. Their struggle for love and acceptance gets thrown off the rails by ridiculous costumes and wacky magic fights. Beautiful Creatures starts off strong then devolves into a magic madcap melodrama that’s as silly as it is unfocused. Writer/director Richard LaGravenese may have been aiming for the next Twilight, but the result is something you may think about renting if the Redbox is out of your first dozen choices.
You know the story. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy meets girl’s reclusive family who turn out to be “casters,” which is the same thing as a witch or wizard but they don’t like being called that because it’s offensive, but the most offensive part is that they dress like Victorian caricatures and they treat the boy like shit because they think he’s under the control of the girl’s evil cousin, so they won’t allow the boy and girl to date because if the girl is influenced by an outside force she might turn to the dark side on her 16th birthday, which can screw up their whole lavish underworld lifestyle of dressing like assholes and never leaving the house. You know the story.
At its heart, Beautiful Creatures is a story about forbidden love – something that’s been done to death. I don’t think it’s ever been done with Jeremy Irons playing a wizard though (sorry, “caster”). I really, really liked the first 45 minutes or so of the film. It establishes a juicy, atmospheric Southern gothic landscape that resembles a restrained Tim Burton setting. Our protagonist is Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a junior in high school who devours banned books and dreams of escaping his dead-end small-town existence. He’s a likable dude and just enough of a smart ass when it comes to dealing with the small-minded Christians he’s surrounded by.
Adding to Ethan’s restlessness is the arrival of new girl Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), who strikingly resembles a girl he’s been having recurring dreams about. Everyone in school gossips about Lena’s family, in particular her uncle, Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), who they believe is a devil worshipper. One day the mocking whispers about her family become too much for Lena and she makes the classroom windows shatter. So the gossip is half true – her family is a bunch of witches (sorry, “casters”), but they don’t worship Satan. Ah well.
At first Lena doesn’t want anything to do with Ethan or his mortal lust. See, there’s this whole spiritual warfare thing going on inside her. On her 16th birthday, her “true nature” will take over – either pushing her over to the dark side or the light. She’s terrified she’ll turn dark, but Ethan reassures her that she’s in control of her own destiny and because she’s a good person, the light will come a’calling.
This is where the movie goes bonkers. Lena’s evil cousin (Emmy Rossum) and mother (Emma Thompson) come into town to influence Lena towards the dark side. Before these ladies show up, the film has a more serious tone. It seems like the stakes of Lena’s birthday are real and a lot of quality time is spent strengthening her and Ethan’s relationship. Both Ehrenreich and Englert are terrific in their roles and at times they even outshine the old timers like Iron and Thompson. They’re light years better than those Twilight twerps, that’s for sure. But then the movie takes some silly turns and it gets very difficult to take the film and its characters seriously.
There’s a bit where the whole family of witches (sorry, “casters”) is having dinner in this weird terrarium looking room and they start having a magic battle. It’s one of the most ridiculous visuals I’ve seen recently. The table is spinning around and there’s this old woman with purple beehive hair and it’s all just so dumb. This scene was definitely the turning point for me. I no longer was enjoying myself. And it only got more painful from there.
During the last half hour of the film, which culminates with Lena’s 16th birthday, Ethan and Lena melodramatically declare their love for each other at least a dozen times. It’s an absurd amount and in a way reflects writer/director Richard LaGravenese’s approach: just shove it down our throats. They’re stupid teenagers, of course their love is stronger than any magic spell, so you don’t have to keep having the characters get down on their knees in the rain and scream it to the heavens. Knock it off and get on with the show.
Beautiful Creatures could have been a great film – like a Twilight with real actors. Instead it’s only a decent one. It starts off really solid, but it crumbles under all of the silly costumes, stupid magic battles, and the repetitive message of love conquering all. I don’t know jack about the source novel, so I don’t know how much LaGravenese had to cut out. I feel like he could’ve cut more though to achieve more focus and less witch bullshit (sorry, “caster” bullshit).
At least for fans of the film Warner Bros. has put together an alright package. The film is presented in 1080p HD in 2.4:1 widescreen. The picture looks phenomenal, particularly the nighttime scenes. The details are crisp and contrasts are terrific. No complaints about the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
There are six behind the scenes featurettes, but they are only about three minutes each. There’s nothing really insightful here and there are a lot of clips from the film mixed in. Nothing but glorified promos, I tell ya.
There are also eight minutes of deleted and extended scenes.
Trailers, TV Spots, and a preview of Margaret Stohl’s new book. She co-authored Beautiful Creatures with Kami Garcia and in one of the six behind the scenes bits, the two basically admit that they wrote a thinly veiled Twilight ripoff in which the roles are reversed – girl has the powers, story is told from the guy’s perspective. Literature!
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars