Set in a South Carolina small town where the drawls are Okie-thick, the film follows Lena (New Zealand newcomer Alice Englert) as she nears her all-important sweet 16th. Because she is a member of the Ravenwood family of witches and warlocks — they prefer the term “casters” — that birthday is when she finds out if her powers will be used for good or evil.
Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich, Stoker) would kinda like to know, because he’s the high school senior falling in love with her. When she moves to town and seems to alienate everybody but him, it gives Ethan something to do besides read banned books.
Competently made but never compelling, Beautiful Creatures suffers from having so many characters, it fails to develop any of them properly. While writer/director Richard LaGravenese (who previously adapted Water for Elephants for the waterlogged screen) has streamlined the novel’s array, he still has too many in play. Filling the roles of other characters with ill-defined powers are acting heavyweights Viola Davis (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), Emma Thompson (Men in Black 3) and Jeremy Irons (TV’s The Borgias).
That’s merely scratching the surface, and they all employ their peculiar brands of magic; it seems as if they can do anything at any time, so stakes are hardly driven into the ground. If there’s a movie to be made here, it’s by putting the character of Cousin Ridley front and center. Playing her, Emmy Rossum (TV’s Shameless) vamps it up with such devilish relish opposite the bland leads, she provides Creatures‘ only spark. —Rod Lott