It'd be a stretch to compliment Beautiful Creatures for being literary, but at least its creators are functionally literate. Authors Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia play all the same cards as the Twilight juggernaut — forbidden young love, supernatural powers, disapproving families, awful amounts of emoting — but their YA transition goes down slightly smoother. Compared to Twilight's codependent cabal of undead idiots, writer/director Richard LaGravenese’s kids actually sound their age. Sorta.
Creatures' principals, starting with Brooding High-School Boy™ Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), rely on a combination of whistlin'-dixie idioms and great-American-novel allusions to get their points across. It's a healthy fetish, really: Though Ethan's reading list is bookworm pretentious ("This man is a god!" he exclaims after discovering Bukowski), at least he's not crying while listening to Evanescence, right? A secular loner in a town of Bible-wielding hardliners, Ethan needs all the allusions he can muster once he meets Lena (Alice Englert), mysterious niece of equally mysterious Macon (Jeremy Irons), the town'sresident wealthy eccentric recluse. It doesn't take much prying for Ethan to discover they’re a clan of "casters," beings with magical abilities split down the good-and-evil middle. He learns that Lena, dark-haired target of the town's ire, is set to be involuntarily "claimed" by one of those two factions on her 16th birthday, thanks to some sort of Civil-War-era curse.
Will Lena default to the dark side, or will Macon's natty insistence that her heart's too pure prove true? What does Vonnegut have to say about this, Ethan?! They do make a pretty couple, which helps bring Creatures' silliness down to eye level. It’s ratcheted back up again by talented actors doing absurd things — Viola Davis as a tattooed shamaness, town demagogue Emma Thompson slapping herself repeatedly when her body is claimed by a spirit. LaGravenese's pace is sluggish, but at least there are no self-absorbed vampires.