Z i l c h !
Starring Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis
Who has gone to the movies and been unaware exactly what you were going to see? Back in the day, it wasn’t such a strange concept. In a time before the Internet or even Moviefone, there was a day and age when people just went to the movies and, based on a whim, decided what they would watch upon arrival.
In the midst of a thousand other things going on, I was blissfully unaware of what had recently opened, so I decided to make a random choice when I arrived at the theater. For some reason, I picked the supernatural romance film “Beautiful Creatures.” I’m not exactly sure why. There were perfectly adequate looking action films featuring Dwayne Johnson, and some awful looking horror film with Felicity from “Felicity.” Yet, I chose a teen romance with witches, set in the deep South. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, sometimes misery is self-induced.
“Beautiful Creatures” is the first real attempt at recapturing the “magic” of “Twilight.” You may have noticed the quotes around the word “magic,” because by “magic,” I mean getting people to spend their hard-earned money on 90 minutes of absolute garbage. Rubbish that features terrible acting, god-awful dialogue, and enough mediocrity to rival the entire roster of the Washington Generals. Set in South Carolina, the movie tells the story of some magical dandies who prance through the Low Country with supernatural powers. They’re called “casters,” as in spell casters. Think “Bewitched” or “I Dream of Jeannie” with really bad Southern accents.
For some reason they decided to cast two great British actors as Southern-fried witches. It’s painfully funny to watch classically trained talent like Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson murder the accent with such flourish. To be fair, it would probably be equally funny to see Wilford Brimley put on a Cockney accent while saying “diabetes.” Still, I found myself laughing frequently at the British interpretation of a Southerner. I realize the British produce some fine actors, but when crammed into a syrupy supernatural soap opera, it not only feels like a waste, but I could almost see the more recognizable and respected talent thinking about what they’re going to spend their paycheck on.
The entire film seems like it was made by people who have neither been to nor have any basic understanding of the South. Sure, “Safe Haven” was a complete piece of garbage, but at least they did a good job of making Southport seem authentic. The fictional Southern world of “Beautiful Creatures” feels manufactured and steeped in clichéd history. The fact that they managed to work a Civil War reenactment subplot into the film felt so terribly campy. I mean, come on—it’s the South. How can you make a movie about the South that doesn’t heavily feature a Civil War re-enactment?
So much of “Beautiful Creatures” feels like a Harlequin romance novel: paper-thin platitudes about love and hackneyed plots about breaking age-old curses. It’s the kind of stuff designed to push the button of the middle-aged in the hopes they will swoon and be forgiving of all the terrible filmmaking going on.
Our love-struck teenagers are played by a couple of relative newcomers who end up making Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart seem almost charismatic by comparison. I was amazed at how poorly cast the movie was. Whether it was the grating presence of the perpetually horny teenagers, or the veteran actors painfully chewing scenery while spewing out the same old tired twists found in every supernatural themed story, there’s nothing in “Beautiful Creatures” to get behind. Even the villains are joyless clichés without any kind of real motivation. Even things that should have been inherently and unintentionally funny, like the characters constantly referencing the phrase “going dark,” didn’t amount to much. This should have been an accidental comedic homerun. It’s a euphemism waiting to happen. Yet, in this joyless production, I couldn’t even muster half a chuckle. Bad movies are a universal truth; the salvageable ones are the ones you can laugh through.
Plainly put, “Beautiful Creatures” is trash. And not good trash, like the old end table you found on the curb and moved into your studio apartment. There’s nothing redeeming about this trash. Waste. Tired, smelly garbage. It’s what happens when studios make movies and aspire to be so little.