Not long (at all) after my strong defense of Warm Bodies, a not-so-keen-minded soul steps up to the plate in an attempt to overthrow the totalitarian Twilight sect of YA-centric cinema. Its name? Beautiful Creatures, of which hones in on one thematically insubstantial plot point after another as two differing adolescents – one human, the other not so much – fall for one another almost instantly. What ensues is a whirlwind of kitschy extraneous detail; one that focuses on central character Ethan’s (Alden Ehrenreich) redundant desire to escape smalltown life for something greater, willing to sacrifice himself for counterpart Lena (Alice Englert) at the drop of a hat as her ominous sixteenth birthday draws near.
Half-assed as that obligatory plot synopsis was, Beautiful Creatures exists only to accentuate the relationship at its core and nothing more. Sure, Lena’s outcast family of “casters” (witches and wizards for all intents and purposes) have lived a troubled existence plagued by a Star Wars-inspired, good or evil life-altering event, however it’s merely just one that now threatens the former’s relations with her boy toy. Weird occurrences that spawn widespread panic among a southern town’s right-wing denizens? It’s all just filler on a list of bullet points LaGravenese’s script aims to touch upon for the sake of illustrating the source novel’s bulk of overly accessible and contrived “substance.”
Like I said, at nearly two hours that feel like four, the film frequently spends more time than it should introducing and removing minor characters and events that have shaped the lives of the Ravenwood-Duchanne clan. In the long run, it’s all predictably for naught as Beautiful Creatures‘ target audience will always have the central interspecies romance lingering in the forefront of their minds, wondering “But what about Ethan and Lena?!” at regular intervals. In the end, the attempts at diversity are admirable, but there’s no denying that a lot of these novels play like three to four-hundred page games of Mad Libs, blank spaces existing only to help transform them all into semi-differing sects of supernatural romantic desires.
Emotionally and stylistically vapid, Beautiful Creatures is a colossal trainwreck that exists solely to hopefully, but unsuccessfully overthrow its comparable competition. With an overly familiar narrative steeped firmly in its unnecessary attention to detail, those looking for some straight-up campy escapism will be sorely disappointed as unbearable lulls and cheese galore muck up the proceedings considerably. All things considered, LaGravenese’s effort can and will appeal to those who unabashedly succumb to the trappings of whimsical interspecies love and lust; it’s just a shame that the film built around these themes is as woefully flimsy and strained as it is.