DVD Release Date: May 21, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: February 14, 2013
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Run Time: 124 minutes
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Cast: Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons

"I just LOVED it," gushed the woman next to me as credits rolled. Really? Had I not been required to write this review I would have walked out an hour earlier. Guess there’s no accounting for taste. Beautiful Creatures is a Southern Gothic teen romance... or a coming of age story... or a film about destiny vs. personal choice... or a statement about how closed-minded and hateful Christians are... or maybe just an old-fashioned tale of sort-of-good vs. definitely evil. It's hard to tell because the film can’t seem to make up its mind.

On one level, it’s a cute, funny, teen romance about a boy with aspirations outside the city limits of his small town and the new girl (with a dark secret) he falls for. Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) is a lifetime resident of Gatlin, South Carolina. He’s a popular kid with a taste for reading banned books who considers the library his ‘church,’ saying his mother took him there "to celebrate what’s holy: books." Ethan’s had trouble sleeping lately; he has a recurring dream about a dark-haired beauty on a Civil War battlefield, but whenever he gets too close to her, his dream self dies.

Imagine Ethan’s surprise when the literal girl of his dream shows up in class—only to be immediately harassed by the "Christian" girls because everyone knows her family worships the devil. Ethan’s not that easily put off, plus he’s bored, so he falls for Lena (Alice Englert), even after learning she’s a teenaged witch—although, she tells him, "We prefer the term 'caster.'" Whatever. Lena is fast approaching her sixteenth birthday, when in a kind of supernatural bat mitzvah she’ll find out if she’s going be good or evil. Apparently male casters can choose their destiny while females must wait to be chosen (does anyone else find that remotely sexist?).

Naturally, this budding romance is a problem. Lena’s uncle (Jeremy Irons, The Words) sees Ethan as a distraction to his efforts to keep Lena "good." Her mother Serafine (Emma Thompson, Nanny McPhee Returns) and Cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) have already gone over to the dark side and want Lena to join them there to put an end to humans once and for all.

At this point things get a little boring; does anyone really think this story is going to end in an apocalypse? It doesn't help that the more heated the romance gets, the less believable it becomes. In the first flush of romance Ethan and Lena were cute, funny, and sweet together. But when it came time for passionate (in a PG-13 kind of way) make-out scenes it felt more like they were kissing only because the director ordered them to, with ears straining to hear “Cut!” Then the story veered oddly off into a National Treasure-esque direction…

Maybe it was better in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's 2009 novel of the same title. All I know is I was checking my watch to see how much more I had to endure.