Beautiful Creatures is a film that suddenly has become the norm in the movie industry: based on a popular book series, teen romance, lesser/unknown actors in the leads, and a supernatural backdrop. The spin this time out is the female protagonist, Lena Duchannes, is a witch or “Caster” and her love interest, Ethan Lawson Wate is just an ordinary southern guy, switching the gender roles that have become the stereotype. Predictably, they fall in love but Lena’s powers and dark family history threaten to tear their love and maybe their town apart, leading up to her 16th birthday when she is claimed for “Light (Good)” or “Dark (Bad).”
Any hopes that this film might be more about the “Casters” than a dopey-eyed teen romance were snuffed early on, with the extended generic scenes of everyone picking on the new girl at school while the handsome young man finds her strange and intriguing. Honestly, the marketing of the film got me cautiously optimistic this could be a fun wizard/witch mythology, but alas it was not to be, and instead the film is everything that is wrong with supernatural romance in the theater (for what is right, check out Warm Bodies).
The magic and spell “casting” was largely spoiled in the trailers, and left very little new material to see in the finished product. Nary a real battle takes place in the film, with every display of power being a one-sided affair to intimidate everyone else in the scene. And when the “casting” gets to an explosive level in the film’s finale (also spoiled in the marketing) nobody seems to remember afterwards that a magic tornado just wiped out half the townspeople during a Civil War re-enactment (don’t ask). Not only that, but the mythology they establish in the film seems to make little sense and has almost no rules, making it near impossible to understand what they can and can’t do – presumably unless you’ve read the books.
Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons are obviously slumming it in this one, perhaps trying to attach themselves to another lucrative teen franchise. The elegant and lovely Thompson, whom I normally love, camps it up to such a huge level as Lena’s dark caster mom Sarafine that it got uncomfortable for me to watch her in some scenes. Emmy Rossum plays Lena’s sexy dark caster cousin Ridley and seemed like the most fun character, but ended up going nowhere while making multiple inconsistent character decisions. The biggest failure, though, was Alice Englert’s portrayal of Lena – she comes across as annoying, pouty, and generally unlikable. On the other hand, Alden Ehrenreich in the role of Ethan was goofy and charming with the right of amount of southern naiveté.
Aside from putting women in the forefront of this supernatural love tale, this is as standard as it gets for the genre. There was potential for a cool film, but the nearly incomprehensible rules established (or not established) along with a cast that fails to sell it competently make for a head-scratching experience. Instantly forgettable and filled with plot holes not even magic can fix, you’d be better off staying at home and checking out The Vampire Diaries – or anything else The CW churns out in the genre – rather than shelling out $12 with your geek date on Valentine’s Day for this romance clunker.