THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Beautiful Creatures available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital Download 5/21
It's probably not fair to compare Beautiful Creatures to The Twilight Saga, yet it's impossible not to. Both are supernatural romances based on a best-selling young adult novel. Both are about a teenager falling in love with someone who ends up being some sort of otherworldly entity. Both feature a threat that tries to pull the young lovers apart. More importantly, Beautiful Creatures undoubtedly exists as a motion picture because of Twilight's runaway success. Ever since Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster book series was adapted for the big screen, we've seen a number of other, similarly themed YA books also make the leap into multiplexes. The films all look the same, are all marketed similarly, and are all pitched at the same audience. Then again, that's Hollywood, right? If audiences like something, give them more things exactly like it.
This time, though, the roles are switched. The lead character is a teen boy named Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich, looking way too old to be an adolescent). He lives in a small South Carolina town, and has grown tired of the superficial, petty girls in his high school. One day, a new girl arrives. She is Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). There are rumors that her family is weird, leaving her to be shunned by most of her peers. Ethan makes an honest attempt to get to know her, and before long, a romance is blossoming. However, Lena is a “caster” (i.e. a witch). Her approaching 16th birthday will be a major event in her life; her true nature as either a good caster or a bad caster will be revealed, giving her immense power either way. Her uncle, Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), is determined to make certain she ends up on the good path. Her mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson), wants Lena to follow her down the dark path. Emmy Rossum co-stars as Lena's flamboyant cousin who arrives just in time to confuse issues, while Viola Davis plays the town librarian, who keeps watch over the casters' secrets.
Beautiful Creatures is filled with a lot of tedious mumbo-jumbo about Ethan and Lena's ancestors, who were in love during the Civil War, and an old curse that is still in effect hundreds of years later. I might have cared were it not all so standard. Stories like this usually feel the same to me. There's always a lengthy establishment of the “rules” of supernatural existence, accompanied by the labored building of a mythology. In the case of Beautiful Creatures, neither of these things are particularly original. It's all standard stuff that we've seen plenty of times before. For this reason, I found myself growing incredibly bored by the film. Nothing was new or fresh enough to earn my interest.
The two leads don't help. Alden Ehrenreich gives a performance of immense blandness. He makes Ethan a thoroughly dull character that it's difficult to care about. Alice Englert doesn't fare much better. She projects an intensity that would probably serve her well in a better movie, but here just comes off as mere adolescent moodiness. The only time Beautiful Creatures bursts to life is when the veteran actors come out to play. Irons, Thompson, Davis, and Rossum all bring a spark to the movie. They know how to invest life into Richard LaGravenese's labored screenplay. Unfortunately, none of them is onscreen for very long, leaving us mostly with the characters we care about the least.
To be fair, Beautiful Creatures is generally pitched at teen girls, who may enjoy it if they're familiar with the book on which it is based. It's tough to see the movie appealing to anyone else. LaGravenese, who also directed, does nothing to make the story relevant or appealing to anyone looking for something other than a formulaic teen romance. But we've got plenty of those, some of them, weak as they are, still better than this one.
( 1/2 out of four)
Beautiful Creatures will be available on Blu-Ray combo pack and single-disc DVD on May 21. Both versions include an UltraViolet copy.
The Blu-Ray contains a number of bonus features, starting with a series of six short behind-the-scenes featurettes, focusing on the story, the characters, the costume design, and more. These segments are all promotional in nature, and generally rely on cast and crew members stating obvious things about the film. There's nothing in-depth or especially informative here.
Four deleted scenes can also be found. Again, none of them really contribute anything to the movie, and it's easy to see why they hit the cutting room floor. The bonus materials close out with a collection of theatrical trailers. The Blu-Ray does boast excellent picture and sound quality.
Beautiful Creatures is rated PG-13 for violence, scary images and some sexual material. The running time is 2 hours and 4 minutes.
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