Oh ah daclare, them’s thick Southern accents ya’ll got there! Of course, once you past the accents, “Beautiful Creatures” is a surprisingly good teenage romance/supernatural drama, and it’s a crying shame it got lost in the shuffle of similarly themed YA offerings this year. The story of a boy and a girl and witchcraft, the film failed to capture the same teenage fanbase that flocked to similar YA fares such as “Twilight”, “Harry Potter”, and “The Hunger Games”. For those who missed it earlier this year (and considering the film’s dismal domestic box office, that would be an awful lot of you), here’s your second chance because the film is now available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital Download.
Told from the point of view of charming and rebellious Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), “Beautiful Creatures” takes place in a dinky Southern town where bible thumpers are still thumping bibles, books are still being banned, and Leonardo DiCaprio movies are so late to town that our hero is still quoting “Titanic” plot points. Enter Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the new kid in town, and one of the mysterious Duchannes who live in a rundown old mansion with her uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons). Instantly picked on by classmates as a “Satanist”, Lena has a rough time of it, but that just means Ethan (did I mention he was rebellious?) becomes immediately smitten with her. It helps that he’s been dreaming about her for months before her arrival.
Turns out, all those rumors about Lena are justified. She is, in fact, a witch. (Or “caster”, as she prefers to be called.) And here’s a whopper: when she turns 16 in a few months, Lena’s fate will be decided for her. She will become the most powerful witch of them all, though which side she’ll play for is uncertain. There are dark forces at work hoping she’ll join their side, including her mischievous cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) and the town’s leading bible thumper Mr. Lincoln (Emma Thompson). This, of course, just makes Ethan more attracted to her. I did mention he’s a rebellious sort, didn’t I? Then again, Ethan’s fate may be more linked to Lena than either one of them truly knows. It might just all be magic, if you will.
Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, who adapted the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, “Beautiful Creatures” was inevitably sold as a “Twilight” knockoff, which is too bad because it’s a hell of a lot better than that franchise could ever hope to be. The film’s biggest asset is, without a doubt, its two young leads. Both Englert and Ehrenreich are outstanding as the outcast lovers, with undeniable chemistry and spark that, frankly, I don’t see in most romantic comedies starring people who have been acting for decades. When they finally get together, you root for the kids. Of the adults, Emma Thompson is hilariously evil, and maybe it’s just the guy in me, but I don’t think the film does enough with Rossum’s Ridley. Or her outfits.
I’ve never read the book by Garcia and Stohl, so I can’t vouch for the film’s faithfulness to the source material. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing about “Beautiful Creatures” that breaks the mold of other similarly themed teenage supernatural romances written for teenage girls. The magic and secret world stuff has all been done before and will keep being done because YA readers can’t get enough of this stuff. As for the movie, it benefits greatly from two terrific leads and it’s too bad that its prospects for jumpstarting a franchise has been dimmed somewhat by its box office returns. I would love to see what happens next, though I get the feeling I might have to read the book series to find out.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes, including “Book to Screen”, “The Casters”, “Between Two Worlds”, “Forbidden Romance”, “Alternate Worlds”, and “Beautiful Creatures: Designing the Costumes”. They run about 25 minutes total, and includes mostly talking head interviews with the cast and crew. According to “Book to Screen”, Ethan is actually the narrator in the books, which is a first, usually it’s the girl doing the first-person narration. You also get 4 deleted scenes totalling about 8 minutes. This includes a 3-minute deleted scene that shows more of the casters at Lena’s birthday party and a scene with Ridley seducing Ethan’s pal Link. You also get a handful of trailers, including the Comic Con trailer and a trailer for the book.