Gone with the witches

Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

Star­ring Alden Ehren­re­ich, Alice En­glert, Jeremy Irons, Vi­ola Davis, Emmy Ros­sum, Thomas Mann, Emma Thompson. Writ­ten for the screen and di­rected by Richard LaGrave­nese. 124 min­utes, rated M (su­per­nat­u­ral themes, vi­o­lence). Show­ing at Read­ing Cinemas Porirua.

TIhere was a time when a teen fan­tasy movie could get away with just telling a good tale.

There was no need or much de­sire to es­tab­lish con­vo­luted mytholo­gies or po­si­tion characters in the con­text of a wider, bloated saga.

As watched Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures go from plucky boy-girl witchy-ro­mance in its first hour, to an ex­haust­ing mess in its sec­ond, I cast my mind back to the pic­tures I adored in my ado­les­cence.

I thanked the movie gods that The Lost Boys (1987) wasn’t based on a pop­u­lar book se­ries, oth­er­wise we would have been sub­jected to the per­sonal his­tory of ev­ery vam­pire and slayer. Nope, the movie just filled its water pis­tols with holy water and got on with it. Hell, we didn’t even find out who the head vam­pire was un­til the last five min­utes.

OK, maybe it’s mean to set a new re­lease against a cult clas­sic. A more com­pa­ra­ble flick in terms of au­di­ence would be teen witch drama The Craft (1996), which cer­tainly wasn’t one for the ages. But again, at least it had its fun and didn’t bury it­self in cease­less back­story.

Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures starts promis­ingly enough, with a lively nar­ra­tion from a teenage boy lament­ing his dead end, small­minded South Carolina home­town. Ethan (Alden Ehren­re­ich) tells us more books have been banned at the Gatlin county li­brary than haven’t, and most folks idea of a good time is reen­act­ing Civil War bat­tles.

Armed with a thick South­ern drawl, dim­ples and good hair, Ethan is ex­pected to charm both young fe­male view­ers and the new girl in class, the shy but sharp­tongued Lena ( New Zealand’s Alice En­glert, daugh­ter of Jane Cam­pion).

Lena is from the mys­te­ri­ous and feared Raven­wood clan, a fam­ily of ‘‘cast­ers’’ (as in spell cast­ers). Al­most 16, she faces ‘‘ The Claim­ing’’, when her ‘‘true self’’ will be re­vealed – be it a caster on the side of light (good girl) or dark (bad girl). If that’s not enough to deal with, she also bares a fam­ily curse dat­ing back to the Civil War.

Un­de­terred by his girl­friend’s high main­te­nance, Ethan tries to help Lena fend off her more nasty rel­a­tives, who want her to em­brace dark magic.

Di­rec­tor Richard LaGrave­nese, a master of Hol­ly­wood mush ( P.S. I Love You, Water For Ele­phants) has a knack for teen repar­tee, and the young leads share a keen chem­istry.

But th­ese virtues and the amus­ing tone, best de­scribed as South­ern gothic bub­blegum, soon give way to dreary flash­backs and swags of ex­po­si­tion- heavy di­a­logue, as we’re told about the dif­fer­ent types of cast­ers, their ori­gins.

Then there are the ‘‘seek­ers’’ and the Book of Moons.

Be­fore long, ev­ery ounce of fun in the movie is ex­plained away, leav­ing us with a Twi­light clone, with swampy trees full of Span­ish Moss in­stead of gi­ant pines and fog. One could al­most sus­pect the writ­ers of the Caster Chron­i­cles (there are four books) sat down with the spe­cific ob­jec­tive of mash­ing-up Twi­light, True Blood and Harry Pot­ter in the hope of hit­ting pay­dirt.

In pa­per­back per­haps, but not at the mul­ti­plex. In the two weeks since its US re­lease, Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures had only re­couped $12 mil­lion of its $60m bud­get.

And if you thought Sean Penn’s work in Gang­ster Squad had the award for ham­mi­est per­for­mance of the year cor­nered, check out Emma Thompson’s wicked witch of the South – it’s a Scar­let O’Hor­ror show.

Fa­mil­iar spell: The for­bid­den af­fair be­tween mor­tal Ethan (Alden Ehren­re­ich) and witch Lena (Alice En­glert) re­ceives a frosty re­cep­tion in Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures, the lat­est su­per­nat­u­ral ro­mance saga off the rank.

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