There is something refreshing about seeing a surly teen girl a movie who is not a pushover like Twilight’s Bella. Lena (Alice Englert) is new in town. She is from a family with a bad reputation, and it doesn’t help that she isn’t all smiley and trying to make friends. Some of the local pretty girls tease her in class, and the next thing they know, the windows completely explode. Yeah, might not want to tease a girl from a family of witches.
Lena has a countdown tattoo on her hand, showing the days until her 16th birthday when she has to choose the dark or light side when she officially becomes a “caster” (as they prefer to be called). Meanwhile, a cute dorky boy named Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) has become transfixed by the moody new girl. Initially I wanted to dismiss Ehrenreich as a Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike, the latest pretty-boy to try to launch a career in what the filmmakers are hoping to be the next teen franchise (there are more books in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s book series where Beautiful Creatures came from). But as soon as Ehrenreich erupted in a completely guileless dorky laugh as Ethan, he won me over.
Lena and Ethan of course shouldn’t be together. The elder casters of both sides, led by Lena’s uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) and uptight church lady Mrs. Lincoln, aka powerful caster Sarafine (Emma Thompson), try to keep the young lovers apart as Lena’s day of reckoning comes closer. Will Lena be perhaps a powerful caster like the others have never seen? With a hot teen series as the source, do you doubt that there may be some twists thrown into her true nature of light or dark? Don’t doubt it.
I actually enjoyed Beautiful Creatures more than I expected. It’s advertising campaign was pushing it as the next supernatural teen romance, but I thought it has surprisingly more depth than that. It helps that the girl character is the strong one, and the boy follows her around like an excited, lovestruck puppy. Also, it benefits from a strong supporting cast that also includes Viola Davis, who automatically makes any film better. In theaters, Beautiful Creatures was dismissed by audiences, but it would be nice to see it find a wider audience on home video.