Director: Richard LaGravenese
Studio: Alcon Entertainment
Hollywood’s obsession with chasing the YA demographic continues with the strenuously quirky, campy but snoozy Beautiful Creatures, directed by Richard LaGravanese, who also coadapted the screenplay from the first novel in a four-novel series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
We’re going to go out on a limb and say that this would-be franchise may not have the stuff to become the next Twilight or Hunger Games–level juggernaut. The dark, goofy Romeo and Juliet lite centers on a sensitive, bookish high school guy (Alden Ehrenreich) grieving the death of his mother. Stuck in a conservative, picturesque South Carolina town, he falls head over heels in love with the mysterious, socially prominent soon-to-be-16-year-old niece (Alice Englert) of the town’s equally mysterious, filthy rich eccentric (Jeremy Irons). Alas for the smitten Ehrenreich, it turns out that his lady love and her whole clan are “spellcasters”—you know, witches—some of whom have gone to the light side like Irons while others, like Emma Thompson and her sidekick Emmy Rossum, have gone dark, meaning they get to wear better wigs, fancier duds and camp it up so wildly, it’s as if they’ve fled the set of a whacked-out Tim Burton flick.
At first, the good-looking, wise-to-itself movie wafts along on a vapor of faux Tennessee Williams dialogue, silly Southern caricatures, literary references and a vague air of secrets and menace. Sure, it’s silly, but compared to the strained seriousness of Twilight, say, it’s a refreshing alternative. But the whole gumbo boils over when the makers of Heavenly Creatures fritter away all that good will with mind-numbing scenes of thumbing through ancient manuscripts, flashbacks and other obvious huffing and puffing to cram in all of the 593-page novel’s hocus pocus meanderings.
Although slumming, Irons, Thompson and a shamefully wasted Viola Davis do what they can to class up the joint, but with its two-plus-hour running time, oh lordy, is this thing dull. At the very least the witches ought to be able to cast a spell to keep the audience awake.