Review: Beautiful Creatures

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) is about to re-enter high school after his mother’s tragic death. A sensitive soul, longing to escape his small town of Gatlin, his world is rocked by the arrival of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) – the mysterious niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), whose family owns most of the land the town is built on. Ridiculed by her conservative classmates, Lena finds an ally in Ethan – but, Lena harbors a secret. She’s the descendant of a long line of “casters”- whose power of spells and sorcery has made them feared outcasts. On her rapidly approaching sixteenth birthday, Lena will either be claimed by the dark or the light line of casters, and both battle over her power.

REVIEW: With the TWILIGHT saga coming to an end, many wanna-be franchises will be battling for a piece of TWILIGHT’s business. This month’s entry is BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, adapted from the young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. There’s a whole series of these books, so I imagine Warner Bros., is hoping for a franchise.

To me, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is too bland to warrant that. Running a lengthy 124 minutes, director/co-screenwriter Richard LaGravenese tries to pack a lot of plot into his film, introducing us to this world of “casters”, which is divided into good and bad sides. The good is represented by Jeremy Irons as Uncle Macon- who, despite being predisposed to being “dark” has chosen “light”, which- for a reason that’s never really explained, is something only male casters can do. The dark is represented by a wildly over-the-top Emma Thompson as Serafine, and her prodigy, Ridley, played by Emmy Rossum.

The first half of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES actually isn’t half bad. LaGravenese opts for this wildly over-the-top vibe, with the southern townsfolk coming off as caricatures right out of THE MUSIC MAN. Usually this silly approach would turn me off, but it works in this kind of heightened reality. The performances, especially by the gonzo Thompson, and an occasionally hammy Irons (his Foghorn Leghorn accent doesn’t help) seem deliberately overboard, as does the set design- with the interior of Irons’ house looking like it was lifted out of BEETLEJUICE. Still, rather than being a turn-off, it feels almost refreshing considering how downbeat and morose TWILIGHT was.

Most importantly, the two teens are decent, with Ehrenreich making a likable protagonist, and Englert hitting the right notes as the outcast sorceress (who, as if we didn’t know she was a rebel, reads Charles Bukowski for fun). The real trouble starts to set in about an hour into the movie, once LaGravenese switches his focus to the central conflict, which is whether or not Lena is going to “go dark.” Most of the second hour is spent trying to find a way to prevent that from happening, which leads to loads of boring exposition and scenes of people looking through ancient spell books- that might have been fun on the page, but is deadly dull in a film. Things liven up a bit when Rossum shows up as a siren-like baddie, with designs on Ethan, but she’s not given enough of a part to really make an impression (although a scene where she slinks around in Rita Hayworth’s dress from GILDA has her looking incredibly sexy).

Even worse, we’re expected to buy into this star-crossed romance between Ehrenreich and Englert, and while separate they’re pretty good, together that have no chemistry whatsoever. There’s simply no passion, and their relationship is something I imagine an audience will have a hard time investing in. Viola Davis gets a part as the local librarian with a secret (oooooh), but she has very little to do- which is a shame. Meanwhile, there’s an ok soundtrack by a presumably fashionable indie band, preciously named Thenewno2 (that’s right- no spaces), which, a talkbacker below pointed out, is fronted by Dhanni Harrison, son of late-Beatle George. To me the music was fairly wallpaper-ish, but there were a couple of decent songs.

However, I fully realize that I’m not the target audience for a movie like BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, which is clearly meant for tween girls. That’s the audience Warner Bros., will need to corner if this is going to be a viable franchise, but to me it seems far too bland to make it that far. It’s not atrociously bad, but despite a promising start, it’s nothing you haven’t seen done a million times before. Maybe the books are a fun read for kids, but the movie is pretty dull.

Beautiful Creatures



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.