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Movie review: 'Beautiful Creatures' takes the 'Twilight' formula higher

Published February 17, 2013 7:44 pm

Review • Adaptation of the popular young-adult novel, in which a teen witch finds love.
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"Beautiful Creatures" may seem like another teen romance trying to capitalize on the rush of gothic love stories made popular by "Twilight." And in a way it is, shadowed by the clichés you'd expect from an otherworldly "Romeo and Juliet": forbidden love between the magical and the mortal, epic showdowns between good and evil, and crushing heartbreak, all with an emo soundtrack.

But surprisingly, "Beautiful Creatures," which replaces "Twilight's" sparkly vampires with witches, has more. It's more mature and more literate, and in the end, more entertaining than any saga involving Team Edward and Team Jacob.

"Beautiful Creatures" reverses the roles. This time, it's a 16-year-old boy named Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) who's the mortal falling for the mysterious creature, a 15-year-old witch named Lena (Alice Englert). Lena has just arrived at Ethan's small South Carolina town and is immediately branded an outsider by the other high-school kids.

Ethan is attracted to her, and a romance erupts. But he soon learns that Lena is a "caster" who on her 16th birthday will undergo a "claiming" ritual that will determine if she's a good or evil witch. Protecting her until that time is her uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons), who forbids her from dating a mortal for fear it would weaken her to the dark side.

But the real fun comes when Oscar winner Emma Thompson appears in essentially a dual role as the uptight Christian mother Mrs. Lincoln and the devilish Seraphine, Lena's ethereal mother, who occasionally possesses Mrs. Lincoln's body. Thompson clearly enjoyed slipping into the wildly different roles of the prissy Mrs. Lincoln and the wonderfully wicked Seraphine.

Director Richard LaGravenese, who adapted the popular young-adult novel the movie's based on, has a lot of experience adapting romantic novels into films ("Water for Elephants," "P.S. I Love You"). With "Beautiful Creatures," he takes what could have been a maudlin, saccharine-sweet teen romance and turns it into something more charming.

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Beautiful Creatures

A teen witch falls for a mortal boy in this charming and sweet romance that's a step above "Twilight."

Where • Theaters everywhere

When • Opened Thursday, Feb. 14

Rating • PG-13 for violence, scary images and some sexual material

Running time • 124 minutes