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Beautiful Creatures an ugly mess 

*1/2

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES
*1/2
DIRECTED BY Richard LaGravenese
STARS Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert

Jeremy Irons, Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich in Beautiful Creatures (Photo: Warner)
  • Jeremy Irons, Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich in Beautiful Creatures

    (Photo: Warner)

Emma Thompson delivers the worst performance of her distinguished career, Jeremy Irons resists the urge to have the producers sign his paycheck even as the cameras are rolling on him, and the exaggerated accents by a significant chunk of the cast are no more authentically Southern than the Great Wall of China. And so it goes with Beautiful Creatures, writer-director Richard LaGravenese's dreary adaptation of a Young Adult novel penned by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Set in a fictional South Carolina town — the type where Civil War reenactments are more popular than Christmas, books like To Kill a Mockingbird are banned, and Burt Reynolds bombs like Stoker Ace and Cannonball Run II play annually in the town's solitary movie theater (actually, just assuming on that last one) — the story focuses on rebel without a clue Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) and the strange situations he encounters when Bella Swan — excuse me, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert, Jane Campion's daughter) turns up as a new student at his high school. Ethan works hard to befriend the girl, who is otherwise ostracized by local goobers — like the Bible-thumping Mrs. Lincoln (Thompson) — who already fear her eccentric uncle (Irons). Ethan eventually learns that Lena comes from a family of Casters (the preferred word for witches) and, like Luke Skywalker before her, she will end up either succumbing to the dark side or crusading for goodness by taking up arms against an evil parent.

Sparkly vampires suddenly look very appealing when compared to the Gothic witches on display here. For all the vitriol directed at the shaky Twilight series, all of its entries are definitely better than this dull and insipid movie, a trial run meant to gauge viewer interest in another series aimed at younger audiences. To the kids whose possible attendance will decide its fate, allow me to quote Nancy Reagan, who, incidentally, is referenced in one of the film's few amusing lines of dialogue. Just say no.

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