Hollywood did its best, even going so far as to divide the final novel into two laborious parts, but there are just no more Twilight movies to be made. And so along comes the inevitable next effort to win the allegiance of fantasy-obsessed teen girls, this time with a gender switch. In Beautiful Creatures—adapted from the first novel in a series called The Caster Chronicles, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl—it’s the heroine, Lena (Alice Englert), who possesses supernatural powers, and the boy, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), whose ordinary mortality gets in the way of their budding romance. Complicating matters here, in lieu of a second boy, is Lena’s impending 16th birthday, upon which she will be “claimed” either by the forces of light or—more likely, according to her “caster” (i.e. witch) relatives—by the forces of darkness.
Written for the screen and directed by Richard LaGravenese (Living Out Loud, Freedom Writers), Beautiful Creatures has at least a moderate claim to being a force of light itself: Lena and Ethan are both bookworms, initially bonding over the unlikely figure (in this context, anyway) of Charles Bukowski. But what begins as a relatively low-key and engaging teen melodrama eventually metamorphoses into the usual CGI onslaught, while slumming Oscar-winners Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, as Lena’s uncle and undead mom, fight a pitched battle over who can go further over the top with the more ludicrous South Carolina accent. That doesn’t mean the movie won’t be successful, though ... and if it is, you can expect three more.