Beautiful Creatures **½/4 – a movie review by James Berardinelli

February 21, 2013 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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Beautiful Creatures is the latest attempt by a Hollywood studio to cash in on the popularity of a YA (Young Adult) series. In this case, instead of vampires and werewolves, it’s witches and warlocks.

When it comes to romance and interpersonal interaction, Beautiful Creatures is on solid ground, with director/adaptor Richard Lagravenese crafting a well-worded voiceover and offering his young leads dialogue that pops and crackles. Unfortunately, the supernatural goings-on in the fictional town of Gatlin, South Carolina aren’t as effective. The epic battles between light and dark Casters (the non-pejorative term for “witches”) underwhelms, seeming obligatory and derivative. The conclusion is somewhat muddled and, despite attempts to provide a satisfactory stopping point, it’s obvious Beautiful Creatures is intended as the first chapter in a longer saga. Novelists Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl wrote four volumes; only a poor showing at the box office will prevent the movie series from churning out at least several sequels.

The decision to cast relative unknowns Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert as Ethan and Lena marks an awareness on Warner Brothers’ part that, when it comes to a saga that could have multiple episodes, it’s best to start out with actors who come with a cheaper price tag. As Twilight and The Hunger Games have proven, significant salary increases accompany box office success. Ehrenrich and Englert are both very good and possess the key element that any YA romance needs: chemistry. Beautiful Creatures’ best scenes by far are the ones that depict Ethan and Lena falling in love. The exchanges between the two, especially early in the film, are sharp and smart. Recognizable stars fill supporting roles: Jeremy Irons as Lena’s uncle, Macon Ravenwood; Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lincoln, the religious zealot; Viola Davis as Amma, Ethan’s housekeeper; and Eileen Atkins as Lena’s grandmother.

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