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Beautiful Creatures 

Teens and witches in a small town make a tepid brew

She's a witch! Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert

She's a witch! Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert

Comparisons to Twilight are inevitable. After all, Beautiful Creatures is about the travails of lovelorn teens in a backwater town: One is sensitive and virtually parentless; the other is a witch, and is caught up in a big family battle about Good and Evil. (Did I say "witch"? Seems they prefer the term "caster.") And it plays out more silly than serious, despite its broody overtones.

Richard LaGravenese's gothic-ish melodrama is adapted from the first of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's young-adult series and introduces us to the main players. Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) is thoroughly bored in Nowhere, S.C., until he befriends the new girl, Lena (Alice Englert). She's moody and weird in a cool way, and can control the weather. But her family is high drama: impervious dad (Jeremy Irons), mean aunt (Emma Thompson) and helpful spirit guide (Viola Davis). (The high-level thespians on board here must be buying beach homes with the cash.) 

This could have been campy fun, but a muddled tone, worn-out plot and assorted goofiness about haunted lockets, the Civil War and secret libraries just made this a drag. 

The juvenile leads try hard but I couldn't summon much interest in their plight. Despite their Bukowski books, steamy Southern evenings and a notable lack of guardianship, our besotted couple only engage in fierce hand-holding. I can't blame them — there's zero chemistry between these two. Perhaps a spell is in order?

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