A few years ago, I picked up Beautiful Creatures, the first of YA series about castors in a small Southern town. What first attracted me to the book was the fact that it had a male perspective, which seemed like a rarity in young adult literature back then. (Of course, not so much now.) I never continued the story past the first book. While I liked it, it didn’t leave me with any desire to see what would happen next. I hoped the movie would change my mind and be an improvement on the plot and characters. In a way, Beautiful Creatures was. Even though the plot is still underwhelming, the cast elevates the material, creating a quite charming and entertaining film.
Beautiful Creatures follows Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a teenager living in a small-minded Southern town yearning the day when he can finally leave. Life gets a little more interesting when a new girl, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), moves into town and starts school. Ethan is totally intrigued by Lena and soon learns that she’s part of a family of castors (witches). Ethan takes it all surprisingly in stride, but it gets more and more complicated as Lena’s 16th birthday approaches. It’s on that day that her family’s curse will either turn her to the light (good) or dark (evil). Lena and Ethan work together to prevent her from turning evil.
The cast, led by breakout actor Alden Ehrenreich, is what makes this movie. Ehrenreich gives Ethan and this movie in general just so much charisma. It’s hard not to be enamored with him immediately. His wit and charm completely took me by surprise. His chemistry with Englert is just right, and the two pull off a very sweet romance. Furthermore, they are supported by some great talents like Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson and Viola Davis. Irons and Thompson are bit a hammy, but it works. It’s mostly the way their characters play into the story that take away from their performances. There’s a long scene between Irons and Thompson, which was captivating for probably two minutes and then started to drag because they were unloading a ton of exposition. Davis did a fine job, but I did wish she was used a little more.
I didn’t care much for the plot and castor mythology when I read the book; so obviously, I didn’t care for it much in the movie. Some major changes are made from the book, and fans might be surprised with them. Though, Richard LaGravenese, who both wrote and directed, still remains faithful to the story at hand, and in my opinion, any changes made worked in the movie’s favor.
The technical aspects of the film weren’t too great. The special effects were a bit hokey and distracting, especially during the transitions from present to flashbacks. In addition, the musical score was too dramatic in some places. For the most part, scores should blend in seamlessly into the scene, heightening or subduing emotion in the right places, but this one popped out and was distracting several times during the film.
Despite Beautiful Creatures’ many flaws, Alden Ehrenreich and LaGravensese’s funny and interesting dialogue save this movie from being a complete dud. Because the film is adapted from a YA supernatural romance, comparisons to Twilight will be made. Sure, they have some similarities. But what Beautiful Creatures has that I always wished Twilight had is: charisma. The cast brings it and has fun, and in turn, the audience has a fun and entertaining experience.
Beautiful Creatures hits theaters on Valentine’s Day – February 14th.