Movie Review: 'Beautiful Creatures' -- 2.5 stars

Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert in "Beautiful Creatures"

Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert in "Beautiful Creatures" (Credit: Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert in "Beautiful Creatures")

Beautiful Creatures
2.5 stars
Directed by Richard LaGravenese
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson
Rated PG-13

"The Hunger Games" represents Hollywood's primary crack at capturing a sizable chunk of the young-adult market lost with the conclusion of the "Twilight" saga. But there are plenty of movie dollars to go around. So, in steps the new flick "Beautiful Creatures," director Richard LaGravenese's adaptation of the first novel in a series by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

The finished product isn't as cynical as all that. It's actually not half-bad, recalibrating the familiar story of star-crossed lovers as an enterprise that owes something to atmospheric southern drama and the offbeat tones of "The Addams Family" or "Dark Shadows," as well as the clunky seriousness of its YA predecessors.

Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) is a South Carolinian who wants nothing more than to see the world outside his small town. Lena (Alice Englert) is the new girl in school with a mysterious background. She lives with her reclusive uncle (Jeremy Irons) on a sprawling estate in town, and the locals just love to spread and dissect rumors about the strange goings-on inside its gates.

Our earnest good ol' boy hero is swept away in a story involving magical beings known as casters, forces of good called the light and evil called the dark (no points for originality there), and other such gobbledygook concepts that are the lifeblood of these enterprises.

LaGravenese directs with a swift hand, incorporating mechanical special effects as well as CGI to give the movie an old-fashioned feel, while relying heavily on the natural charms of his superb cast. Comic touches make the film at the very least a partial heir to the kitschy gothic soap opera tradition.

In the end, though, the lightweight approach makes this a tough sit. "Beautiful Creatures" suffers from the uneasy blend of its young-adult-hit-movie aspirations and off-kilter spirit, hitting familiar narrative marks without the epic scope and heightened emotions required to really pull them off. Everything is so low-key it doesn't really stick, which is strange when you consider that the core of this story is nothing less than a supernatural war over a teenage girl's soul.


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