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Monday, March 4, 2013

Beautiful Creatures

A Twilight rip-off or perhaps something more...

Beautiful Creatures is a film that clearly hopes to capitalize on the rapidly aging, but still devoted Twilight audience but, though it may look like little more than a Twilight knockoff, it ends up beating its "parent" franchise at its own game.

We once again have a forbidden relationship between a normal human and a paranormal creature of the night, with the only real difference being that the latter is a witch rather than a vampire. Oh and the small-town, human outsider is the guy this time round but, really, the whole set up of Beautiful Creatures is basically Twilight 2.0.

Put aside the film's basic premise though, and it quickly becomes clear that this is one knock off that improves on the "authentic" original in every conceivable way. The Twilight films have largely gotten a bad rap for doing precisely what they set out to do, but there's no doubt that they work for their target demographic and only their target demographic. Beautiful Creatures, on the other hand, should work for that same audience of die-hard Gothic Romance fans but should also satisfy audiences looking for some nicely schlocky, witchy, b-grade fantasy fun.

And "fun" really is the name of the game here. This is a film that realizes exactly how ridiculous it is and it clearly has a blast with its camp-horror trappings, while occasionally even saving some place for themes of responsibility and self-sacrifice. Best of all, it's genuinely laugh-out-loud funny at times and, even if much of its humour does come from fairly obvious jokes about the close-minded, redneck community in which it is based, it's still a pleasure to see teen paranormal romance with a real sense of humour for a change.

The acting too is a definite several notches above that sparkly vampire saga. We have some gleefully- demented scenery eating from Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum and, most especially, Emma Thompson who are clearly very much in on the joke, while a more dignified turn from Viola Davis balances the madness with a bit of well-judged humanity. As for the film's two, young-adult leads, they more than hold their own as they make their outsider characters believable people rather than tiresome caricatures - which, as previous paranormal romances have shown, is a lot easier said than done.

So, yes, Beautiful Creatures offers little in the way of surprises or originality, but it's a thoroughly and knowingly daft bit of fun with likable characters, good jokes and some rather effective cinematography and set designs that deserves a better run at the box office than it has said so far. Twilight 4.2 was clearly undeserving of all those Razzie Awards, but it certainly deserves to be beaten at the box office by a film that is so obviously its superior.

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