Review: Beautiful Creatures


Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert in Beautiful Creatures

I'm just going to come right out and say it: Beautiful Creatures is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies I've seen in a long while. My friend who attended the screening with me called it "a laugh riot." There is some wit and bite in Richard LaGravenese's screenplay (based on the YA novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl), but the rest of the laughs are caused by other factors ... well, pretty much everything else involved with this film.

Beautiful Creatures opens with narration by Gatlin, South Carolina teen Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), who sounds like a refugee from the set of HBO's True Blood. Maybe Ehrenreich learned his accent from watching that show? (Giggle count: 1) He has haunting dreams and stumbles upon items during his pre-dawn jogs in the town graveyard. His mother died recently and his father never leaves his room (in fact, we never see or hear him!). His lone parental figure is family friend Amma (Viola Davis), the town librarian.

Alden Ehrenreich and Viola Davis in Beautiful Creatures

Ethan becomes fascinated by new-girl-in-town Lena (Alice Englert, aka Jane Campion's daughter), whose family, according to local rumor, is a  bunch of Satanists. Really, they're "casters," who can be either good or evil, depending on how their "claiming" goes when they turn 16. (Oh, unless they're dudes, who can change good or evil whenever they want. Of course.) And Lena will soon turn 16, oh no! And Ethan and Lena have fallen in love, oh my goodness! Their love is so powerful that when they make out, wooden signs behind their backs catch fire! (giggle count: about 100)

Lena's mom is an evil witch, er, I mean, caster, who has taken over the body of a local woman. As she works (in her way) to get Lena to choose darkness, Lena's uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons with an undecided accent), who was recently dark/evil, aims to have Lena choose light/good. For some reason. There's also a locket and a curse and Emma Thompson as a conservative townswoman trying to get Lena kicked out of high school.

Beautiful Creatures is certainly ridiculous, but I was able to follow the storyline. I even got a teensy bit pulled into the teenagers' love drama ... but not enough that I could ever stop myself laughing at moments meant to be romantic, scary, dramatic or tense. As the preacher gives a sermon about two-thirds in, I whispered to my friend, "This guy is overacting." She responded, "So is everyone else in this movie."

I'm slightly chuckling to myself now, just recalling different moments in the film: Amma gets in a boat and pushes out from shore, and the musical score (by band Thenewno2) kicks in with some bizarre '80s-esque drumbeats; a montage put to maudlin piano music ends with Macon lifting his fingers from a grand piano's keyboard as if he had been playing same music (giggle count: far far too many); I could go on.

When it's not accidentally humorous, Beautiful Creatures is wonderfully cheesy. There is a lack of subtlety here, and most of the actors seem to be dead serious about their roles -- which means the levels of camp are off the charts at times.