Beautiful Creatures

The past three months must have been difficult for Twilight fans– knowing that the saga is over and that there’s nothing new to look forward to except for whatever nifty extras there are on the upcoming Breaking Dawn – Part 2 DVD.

Based on the first book of the popular Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, it makes no secret about being aimed squarely at the Edward and Bella crowd. But this story of a supernatural creature falling in love with a mortal actually (heretics, unite!) outshines Stephenie Meyer’s creation in more than a few areas– not the least of which is the fact that it comes with a side of humor and a cast that isn’t content to look like it’s sleepwalking.

I fully understand that the Twi-hard armies may now be massing outside my door, but, seriously, how much of sparkly Robert Pattinson staring into Kristen Stewart’s eyes do we really need?

Here we get just-shy-of-16 Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) and high school junior Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich). She’s a witch (actually, they prefer the term ‘caster’) and he’s the human kid tired of the same-old-same-old in his dead-end hometown of Gatlin, South Carolina.

When she hits sweet 16, she’ll become either a good witch or a bad witch (it’s completely up to her inherent nature). And he just happens to fall for the odd girl who’s not from around these parts. Eventually he finds out who/what she really is (and what she’s facing) and takes it on himself to do whatever he can to keep her from going bad.

Director Richard LaGravenese (directing his first film since 2007’s P.S. I Love You) also handles the screenwriting duties here, and he’s made a fantastical, eminently entertaining film. It’s not perfect, certainly– parts are more hokey than they need to be, and there’s certainly a bit of a diluted feel (the book was 500+ pages long, after all), but the special effects are snazzy enough, and the light vs. dark battle keeps things moving along.

It’s the cast, though, who ensures Beautiful Creatures‘s success. Not only do feature film newcomers Englert and Ehrenreich create a more believable and relatable (and, well, interesting) couple than their Twilight counterparts, the supporting cast elevates the film immeasurably, too. Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, as Lena’s light and dark mentors respectively, are delightfully hammy, oozing southern charm with perfectly mischievous undertones. And Emmy Rossum, as Lena’s wild-child cousin Ridley, steals her scenes with a head-turning blend of sass and mayhem.

As with Twilight, the Caster Chronicles are a four-book series, so there’s still much more of that mayhem headed down the pike, but Beautiful Creatures gets the wild ride underway in a delightfully wicked fashion.

4/5 stars