Beautiful Creatures is arriving in a marketplace full of Twilight junkies still eager for their supernatural teen-romantic fix, and the film’s concept couldn’t be clearer: It’s Twilight with the sexes reversed. This time it’s the boy who’s the mortal: moody, bookish Ethan, the outsider in his sleepy small town of Gatlin, S.C., though Alden Ehrenreich plays him more like a sensitive jock on Glee. Lena (Alice Englert), the new girl at school, comes from a family of witches (or, as they’re known here, Casters), and on the day she turns 16 she’ll be ”claimed,” either by the light side or (more likely, due to a family curse) the dark side.
Adapted from the popular YA novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures is lushly pictorial and not-too-badly acted. The best thing in the movie is Englert, who has a fresh, unretouched, Jane Austen-gone-goth allure. (She is also Jane Campion’s daughter.) Jeremy Irons, as Lena’s smoking-jacketed rotter-aristocrat uncle, and Emma Thompson, as her floridly angry mother, are like blithe spirits out of a Dark Shadows sequel you want to see. But Beautiful Creatures, more than the Twilight films, lacks danger and momentum. The audience, like Ethan, spends way too much time waiting around for Lena to learn whether she’s a good girl or a bad girl. B-