Movie Review: ‘Beautiful Creatures’

Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert in Beautiful Creatures
Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan Wate and Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes in 'Beautiful Creatures' - Photo by John Bramley/Warner Bros

Reviewed by Ian Forbes

I’m not really sure how to say this so I’m just going to rip the band-aid off and get it over with. I kind of liked Beautiful Creatures. (Please, stop the snickering. It’s rude.)

Now, some of you out there may be saying, ‘Of course you liked it Ian, it features Emmy Rossum,’ and there’s a lot of truth to that. Having her play a supporting role in the film was my primary interest in seeing the movie at all, and she did a nice job in the movie; and, of course, looked spectacular while doing so. However, had the entire movie been a train wreck surrounding her, I’d have no qualms in squashing this like a bug … but given the scope and intent of the production this pretty much did what it needed to do.

Based on the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (if this makes money, there’s a new franchise in town), the film is about a family of casters (witches to the layperson). When the girls turn 16, they’re claimed for the light or the dark and they aren’t supposed to have any say in the matter. The youngest of the clan (Alice Englert) is on the cusp of that auspicious birthday and is worried she’ll be claimed for the dark like her cousin (Rossum) and mother. There’s also a curse and a small town that fears the strange events that follow the family but that’s all small potatoes to the budding romance between a local boy who’s always dreamed of leaving (Alden Ehrenreich) and Englert.

Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich in 'Beautiful Creatures'
Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich in 'Beautiful Creatures' - Photo by John Bramley/Warner Bros

Due to the young adult audience, the teenage romance, and supernatural core to the movie, the comparisons for this have largely been of the Twilight variety. But as much as I don’t appreciate losing whatever cool points I may have garnered up to this point in my life, I have to say that there’s a fairly wide gap between this and the sparkly vampires. Aside from the spinning table fight scene highlighted in the trailer, which is nothing short of atrocious and silly, the large majority of this movie handles the hocus pocus material pretty well. Also, despite some early rumblings I had heard to the contrary, I was able to buy into the love story. Ehrenreich’s accent borders on the ridiculous at times but the pair of lovebirds did a decent job of capturing that sense of young love, which is the underpinning to the struggles Englert finds herself dealing with on account of the ever-looming Sixteenth birthday that isn’t destined to be so Super Sweet.

On the supporting side of things, having already discussed Emmy’s contributions, the two key actors to talk about are Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson (Viola Davis’s role is more than a little too stock to be considered all that interesting). Irons restrains himself for the most part from diving into the deep end of scene chewery a la something like Dungeons & Dragons. That’s both good and bad, as it spotlights the few moments he goes over the top as near cringe-worthy but also makes for a rather dull portrayal overall. Thompson, on the other hand, showed quite a bit of range in her portrayal of the town Bible-thumper who’s at times possessed by Englert’s mother. Playing both sides of the coin allowed her to be prim and proper when condemning the heathens but also delightfully free in embracing the dark so it made her quite fun to watch.

Really, the bottom line here is whether or not you’ve read the book and/or are a fan of the teenage supernatural romance genre. I’m actually neither and have reservations about elements of the film but never found myself wanting to bolt for the door. I bought into the story and won’t go kicking and screaming into the next installment should it be forthcoming. I’m thanking every star in the sky, lucky or not, that this wasn’t as horrendously acted as Twilight. What the world doesn’t need is another rampant film series that defies all logic … though I’m sure if we give Hollywood a minute or two, they’ll come up with one. Thankfully, if you were eagerly anticipating the film, I can happily say you’re probably going to get what you want and that’s more than a lot of movies can say these days.


Beautiful Creatures hits theaters on February 14, 2013 and is rated PG-13 for violence, scary images and some sexual material.

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