I hate Twilight and I haven’t even read the Beautiful Creatures books, but boy was I glad this movie came out on Valentine’s Day weekend because it meant I had an excuse for not seeing Safe Haven (*puke*) or the new (boring looking) Die Hard movie. What’s more, the trailer actually made the story look somewhat promising (i.e. not horrible).
A bookish boy falls in love with a spell caster, which may cause her to be chosen by the dark side on her approaching sixteenth birthday.
It’s pretty standard as far as teen paranormal romances go (except usually if someone’s normal, it’s the girl) and the couple was likeable enough, and I enjoyed it when I was watching it. It was only later on that I realized how confused I was by all the spell caster lore they try to cram in around the edges of the love story.
Oddly enough, though these books are written for teen girl readers, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) seems to be the main character. At least, that’s the impression you get from the voice over intro where he talks about how he reads a lot of Kurt Vonnegut because hates living in his small town (Gatlin, South Carolina)… kind of like he’s reading the opening chapter of the book or something.
Dear Diary, my life sucks. Bring me a magic girlfriend.
Enter Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the weird niece of the weird old guy who lives in the weird old house outside of town. Gatlin is a very religious (read: backward) town, so Lena is condemned as an evil witch and bullied in school long before anyone even finds out that she really is a witch and she really is going to be evil when her birthday rolls around, at least according to her family.
LENA: Nobody wants to come over to my house.
UNCLE: Because they think you’re a witch?
LENA: No, because they’re afraid they’ll break their necks on our pretentious staircase.
Ethan, dopey, mooning teenager that he is, discovers Lena’s witchy secret simply by refusing to go away, and he seems to win over Lena in the exact same way. It must be because Lena likes to laugh, because he’s not particularly smart or useful (don’t believe everything you read about people who read).
So, um, you should, like, not be evil n’ stuff. ‘Cause poetry is cool.
Here’s where it gets confusing. Lena’s uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) and Ethan’s housekeeper Amma (Viola Davis) believe that having a boyfriend will turn Lena evil for sure, because of some curse that may or may not be the reason she doesn’t get to choose for herself whether she’s going to go light or dark. Evil witches Sarafine (Emma Thompson) and Ridley (Emmy Rossum) also believe this, so they’re trying to keep Lena and Ethan together…
Except when Ridley is trying to steal Ethan from Lena…
… while Macon and Amma are trying to break the couple up. Except after a while Team Evil kind of drops off the face of the Earth and Team Good changes their minds, and for some reason Ethan is selectively impervious to magic when the plot requires him to briefly be special…. so yeah, I dunno.
Me? I thought you knew what was going on! Can we take a time out to read the book?
With so many witches (sorry, ‘casters’) arrayed on teams of good vs evil, I was expecting more magical battles. But apart from one hilarious spinning-dinner-table scene between Ridley and Lena – which is not CGI but a humongous, barf inducing, hydraulic Lazy Susan….
Hold on everyone, have you taken your Gravol?
…. and some pretty cool CGI tornados ripping apart a Civil War re-enactment, there’s not actually much magic in this movie about magic. In fact, there’s a sequence near the end where Lena spends a couple of weeks reading a book. READING A BOOK!
I’m all for encouraging teens to read but this sort of thing
seems more likely to encourage them to burn down libraries.
After the (unfortunately brief) tornados-at-a-Civil-War-reenactment where Sarafine tries to win over Lena to the dark side like she’s Darth freaking Vader, the ending is a bit of a letdown too. The plot resorts to contrivances to keep Lena and Ethan apart and I found myself wondering (and you probably will do) why Lena doesn’t have a ‘ctrl+z’ spell she can use to speed things up a little and reach the inevitable conclusion.
And then everything was perfectly perfect, THE END.
So I have a few complaints about this movie, but I did enjoy it. I particularly enjoyed laughing at dopey Ethan the lovesick puppy, who seems even more dopey because of his Southern accent. I probably will read this books, if only to clear up some of the more confusing aspects of being a cursed spell caster. I would (selectively) recommend this movie to people who enjoy teen paranormal romances, but I hardly need to – if you’re a fan you’ve already seen it. Everyone else – you’ll probably think (correctly) that you’ve seen it all before.