The "Twilight" movies ended their $3 billion run last year, but they haven't been forgotten -- particularly by film-studio executives.
Here's their idea of a new twist: What if sulky Bella Swan were a cheerful teenage boy, and handsome vampire Edward Cullen a girl with magic powers? She'll still belong to a family of ancient aristocrats who wear amber contact lenses and haute couture, of course. But instead of Forks, Wash., they'll live in Gatlin, S.C.!
The result: "Beautiful Creatures," an adaptation of a young-adult novel that could only exist in a post-"Twilight" world. Youthful newcomers Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert play Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, a strange newcomer who turns out to be a "Caster" -- a witch, basically. Her uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons, slumming) discourages their romance, for on Lena's 16th birthday she may suddenly turn evil. It runs in the family: Her mother, Serafine (an enjoyable Emma Thompson), certainly rhymes with witch. But love is strong, and when the two teens get hormonal, nearby objects get damaged.
All right, which "Twilight" ingredients aren't here? For starters, the weird sexuality that made those movies interesting, and the dopey humor that made them slightly bearable. "Beautiful Creatures" doesn't even feel like its own world -- it's someone else's -- and writer-director Richard LaGravenese ("P.S., I Love You") makes a mess of it. Visually, it's chaos, a mix of Tim Burton whimsy, Gothic horror and "Harry Potter" fantasy (Viola Davis plays a wise librarian). Narratively, it's so muddled that the characters spend more time explaining the story than acting it out. Fighting for thematic dominance are the Civil War, religion and -- get this -- Charles Bukowski. They all lose.
In the end, "Beautiful Creatures" has one overarching problem: It's boring. "Twilight" was many things, but never that.
PLOT A small-town teenager falls for a new arrival with mysterious powers. RATING PG-13 (mature themes, fantasy-style violence)
BOTTOM LINE Take the dopey humor and creepy sex out of "Twilight" and you get this dull, uninspired knock-off. On the bright side, maybe it'll finally drive a stake through the heart of the whole genre.