‘Beautiful Creatures’ (2013) Movie Review

Alden Ehrenrich and Alice Englert in Beautiful Creatures
Alden Ehrenrich and Alice Englert in Beautiful Creatures
Photo: Warner Bros.

Comparisons to the Twilight franchise will obviously be made as Beautiful Creatures, adapted from the best-selling novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, focuses on a love between a human and a supernatural being. In this case vampires are replaced with witches and it’s the girl with the powers and the boy who’s initially smitten. The difference, however, is in the quality and it will be an interesting test to see just how well this film does. After all, Harry Potter had its own share of cinematic imitators, but in the case of Potter the original was still, arguably, the better. Thus the failures from Eragon to Cirque du Freak.

So, just what will come of Beautiful Creatures? A film with an impressive cast and performances, a none-too-original premise and a story that holds itself together well enough to satisfy the run time despite a few hiccups and restarts along the way.

Set in a small South Carolina town, the story revolves around Lena (Alice Englert), a young witch coming up on her 16th birthday, a day in which it will be determined whether she is destined for the dark or the light. A battle will be fought to influence the outcome, a battle that includes an unwitting participant in Ethan (Aldren Ehrenrich) who falls in love with Lena and she for him, but love could be Lena’s downfall.

The stakes are high and the townspeople are already wary of Lena and her uncle, Macon Ravenwood (a Google-loving Jeremy Irons), a family that actually helped found the small town, but rumors of witchcraft and devil worship always follow close behind. For that matter, Lena is immediately looked at as an outcast, but not by Ethan who is strangely drawn to her and the two grow inseparable.

Englert is new to me as I have not yet watched Ginger & Rosa, which received high marks on the festival circuit and where she plays the latter half of the titular duo, but here she does very well, tapping into the idea of an ordinary girl with extraordinary abilities. The film doesn’t play up the whole “witch” aspect in over-the-top ways, at least not until Lena’s sister Ridley (Emmy Rossum) shows up in sunglasses and floor-length lace, but she does add a nice jolt of energy to a film that could have run the risk of being almost too ordinary.

The highlight for me, however, is Ehrenich, whom I first saw in Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro (read my review here) where he bowled me over. In Tetro a comparison to Leonardo DiCaprio was quite apt, but here he’s almost channeling a young Jack Nicholson with a sly smirk and enough charm and wit to win you over. This kid can really act and considering he’s only 23-years-old, there is a lot more he will bring to the table in the coming years.

Otherwise, Jeremy Irons is great, Emma Thompson is given a lot of room to play with her character and Viola Davis is always reliable, though she really isn’t given much to do here.

Thankfully there isn’t an overall reliance on special effects or magic, but rather a focus on character and each is drawn out well enough to keep you engaged throughout. There are a few hiccups along the way where scenes either last too long (a dinner table tornado for example) or abruptly start and stop and occasionally characters are lost for a good length of time, causing us to wonder just what the hell happened to them.

However, as far as cinematic diversions are concerned, Beautiful Creatures proves satisfying. It’s definitely targeting a female demographic and a younger one at that, but guys in the audience should be thankful if their girls are dragging them to this rather than another outing with Edward and Bella.

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