Here is the way that things work in "Beautiful Creatures": Mortals live in this world with witches, some of them good and some wicked, and they prefer to be called Casters.
Casters don't seem too different from humans when young, but their powers increase until reaching age 16, at which point they are "claimed" for either light or dark, with an individual's inherent nature determining their destiny.
Therein lies the rub for Lena, a Caster who's just moved to Gatlin, S.C., to live with her mysterious, shut-in uncle Macon in a Southern Gothic mansion. She is 75 days short of her 16th birthday, and she doesn't know who she will be in a couple of months - so it's an awkward time to be experiencing first love.
Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich,
Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis,
Tulsa, Cinemark Broken Arrow, RiverWalk,
Owasso, Eton Square, Sand
Springs, Starworld 20
2 hours, 4 minutes
PG-13 (violence, scary images,
some sexual material)
(on a scale of zero to
But there's some kind of history between her and local-boy Ethan that ties them together from the past, and there's ... oh so much more in this metaphorical spin on young people's fears of moving into adulthood.
In the pantheon of young-adult novels being turned into films, "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is a lengthy tome at 563 pages. It is a book of dense mythology, and as a film it seems that the producers are saying, "We can't be sure of a sequel, so let's pack too much into one movie, rather than not enough."
As the new girl in town arrives and everyone turns against her except for Ethan, writer-director Richard LaGravenese tries to incorporate the book's themes into a cogent narrative. It's not easy.
The movie is a teen romance, as well as a family-curse suspense tale. The first act is mostly a high-school comedy. It's also the story of conservative townspeople afraid of witchcraft "and liberals, and Greenpeace, and whatever else," as one character says.
The trouble is that though film newcomers Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich are wonderfully naturalistic actors, they produce almost no heat romantically as Lena and Ethan. By genre comparison: Edward and Bella they are not.
And then there's the blending of all those other styles into a mix that never solidifies into a narrative thrust. This is low-energy storytelling.
It's always fun to see actors the caliber of Jeremy Irons (as Lena's magical uncle) and Emma Thompson (as a dark witch looking to lure Lena her way) chew up scenery. With Irons in exquisite, floor-length silk robes and Thompson playing two drastically different roles, they wear the funkiest clothes and offer the most melodramatic lines.
But they are minor characters (as is Viola Davis, playing Ethan's guardian) who don't make the impact you hope for and who don't get to have as much fun as we'd like: As far as casting spells go, outside of a family dinner scene gone cuckoo when a tornado puts everyone spinning, there clearly wasn't much of a budget for computer-generated effects.
The wow-factor is incredibly low. Stormy skies, blowing winds and turning teen boys into raging horndogs are part of the natural world and don't require much in the way of witchcraft.
There is real potential to the material in "Beautiful Creatures" that can be better realized in the book. As for a second film, which is clearly set up in the conclusion: It would take a spell being cast to make that happen.
Original Print Headline: Not enough 'wow'
Michael Smith 918-581-8479