There are some movies I’m never going to talk the husband into so if I’m ever going to watch them, it will have to be on my own. The time in which to take in a movie by myself has dwindled from slim to none and slim took a bus out of town the second my daughter became an official toddler. But recently I made time to watch Beautiful Creatures.
Let me start this review by saying that a movie like Beautiful Creatures is fodder for someone like me. It has all the makings of a perfect little guilty pleasure. YA adult paranormal fiction? Check. Based on a beloved book series? Check. Likeable, interesting leads? Check. A great cast of side characters including a Academy Awards winner Jeremy Irons and all around bad ass Emma Thompson? Check and Check.
But the sum of its parts didn’t quite add up for me as much as I hoped it would. And I can’t quite figure out why. I can’t pinpoint if it was some of the characterization or if it was the story itself, but the emotional heft wasn’t there, as much as I was hoping it would be. I don’t think it was the fault of the two leads. I think Alden Ehrenreich was absolutely perfect as Ethan and I think the character of Ethan was just the right mix of teenaged ennui and literary hero mash-ups. There were a couple of times where I caught Alice Englert trying too hard, but she still did a really passable job in the role and the chemistry between the two was palpable. Is it wrong that I could watch hours of the two of them making googly eyes and whispering to each other?
But when the focus moves off of them, the film loses its momentum. And I’m really not sure who is to blame. Thompson and her over the top accent? Emmy Rossum and her not even played for laughs Siren routine? Margo Martindale? (Kidding. I could never blame Margo Martindale for anything.) Thomas Mann? You know what, after Project X I hold him responsible for damn near everything. Why did Fun Size suck? Thomas Mann. Why did Craig try to kill himself in It’s Kind of a Funny Story? Thomas Mann. Global Warming? Thomas Mann. But he was the least of this movie's problems, I think.
I get the sense that the movie may have glazed over big chunks of exposition/plot from the book just to get where it was going. I’m not sure what those sections are, and I’m almost willing to break my one rule of book-to-movie adaptations (the rule is – never read the book after you’ve seen the movie) just to confirm that there was indeed something significant missing in translation.