Continuing in the grand tradition of watching awful movies for the sake of appeasing my wife, this week I bring you...
Theatrical Release: November 2008... It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without going to the theater to see a teenage vampire movie based on a book written by a Mormon!
Genre: Fantasy Romance Thriller
MPAA RATING: PG-13
Sub-Genre: Crap my wife made me watch...
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Cam Gigandet... Does it matter who else was in it? Have you heard of ANY of these people? Or is it like watching the lineup for Celebrity Fit Club where the term "celebrity" is used so loosely...
Overview: A teenage girl who's unhappy with her home life (you don't come across those every day) moves from Arizona to live with her Dad in a small town in Oregon. Like no small town high school in existence, this one is upscale and filled with welcoming, healthy, diverse (there's at least one black guy and one gay Asian = Gaysian), athletic, clean, drug-free kids with good oral hygiene and no visible facial bruises. Oh, and vampires. For no good reason, she falls in love with the one who looks most in need of a Royal Red Robin Burger, Edward. Lots of brooding takes place. Because they're sooooooo misunderstood and just can't seem to fit in. Except maybe at Hot Topic.
Fact: I hate vampire movies.
Fact: I hate teenage angst movies.
Last Fact: If you combine both of these seriously overdone genres, you get Twilight.
For those of you who aren't in the know, Twilight is a series of books about teenage vampires in the Pacific Northwest written by Stephenie Meyer, who just happens to be Mormon and who happens to have a worse website than the original Dundler Mifflin site ("Coming Spring 2005!"). Knowing that Ms. Meyer is an LDS (Latter-Day Saint) actually gives you some insight into why you could have a movie about teenagers and vampires with absolutely no sex and no visible neck-draining scenes. I'm not saying it has to be like American Pie but, seriously, no one so much as reached for a boob in the whole movie. Now I haven't read the books, nor do I intend to so I can only give you my insight to the movie as I know it. And it flat-out sucked.
Bella's mom is one ex-boyfriend away from being a total deadbeat so she ships herself off to live with her loving but dim-bulb of a father in Oregon. It's Bella's junior year of high school and like most new kids who are really attractive, she's welcomed with open arms. (As a side note, if you're a short, scrawny, harelip kid, you have awful first days at new schools where you get into a fight with Donald Crouch and end up crying in the locker room between classes.) Like all schools, this one has it's cliques: artsy kids, football players, the swim team, the black guy, and vampires. But not the kind of goth-evolved-to-emo-evolved-to-vampires kids who are just looking for attention and don't inhale their Marlboro Reds, I mean real vampires who drink blood. But not people blood, of course. Confused yet?
My first impression of the vampire clique at No-Name High School, Oregon? Why are they all wearing white? No, really... There are four of them and they come in through the lunchroom door two at a time and they're all wearing white. White shirts, white tech vests, white chinos, white capes (OK, no capes) but all decked out like they're late for a tennis match. I thought the bad kids always wore black...
Enter Edward Cullen. Edward dresses like Johnny Cash if Cash were a vampire. Only Edward's not as cool as The Man In Black. The group of vampires that Edward lives with is a progressive group who shun drinking human blood and instead prefer animal blood (which I'm told all tastes like chicken) and eating vegetables. Apparently you couldn't find nicer vampires. They shop at Whole Foods, for God's sake! And FYI, the vegetarian vampire angle was already perfected in 1988 with the release of Count Duckula on Nickelodeon.
The first time Bella and Edward encounter each other, they're in a chemistry class and she looks over and sees him giving her that romantic "I'll kill you in the woods and dump your body in a shallow grave" look that really turns the ladies on. I know the actors are really trying to look "brooding" a lot of the time but it usually just comes across as creepy. Add to that Edward's Johnny Bravo hairdo and I just couldn't take this movie seriously. At one point, in what I'm sure was a last minute addition to the script, Edward approaches Bella in the cafeteria, gets to within 2 feet of her and says "If you're smart, you'll stay away from me... We shouldn't be friends." Again: He approached her to tell her she should stay away from him. So of course, Bella falls in love with him because... Really, who cares why. Edward is a walking Depeche Mode song and Bella has less common sense than those girls in high school who wanna have a baby so their jobless boyfriends will stay with them. Next!
There are also werewolves in this movie. Apparently, all the indigenous Indians of Oregon can pull a Jack Nicholson (or a Michael Landon, depending on your generation) although you don't see them transform. The vampires and the werewolves have an understanding where they stay off each other's side of the 50-yard line (figuratively). I have to imagine they're like the Sharks and the Jets in a watered-down version of Underworld. And for the record, movies about vampires and werewolves are like movies about zombies or Steven Seagal: They suck, there are WAY too many of them, and it takes absolutely no imagination to write a story about them. Steven Seagal especially!
Of course, there has to be an element of danger, even in a Mormon teenage vampire movie. Enter the Bad Guys. I'm sure there's a name for their group I just didn't care to write it down. Three vampires also inhabit this part of the country and apparently, if you're the homo-sapien-liking kind of vampire, it's a requirement that you dress in rejected clothing and makeup from a Rob Zombie video. The three pedigree vampires wanna drink Bella's blood since, and I'm not kidding here, she's delicious. A chase across the country ensues, with James (the bad vampire who looks like Bucky Covington, according to my wife) leading the way and not stopping until he gets to eat her liver with some fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti. I won't spoil the ending but you can guess that when a Mormon's pounding the keyboard for the story, the hero will always get the girl, the bad guy dies (quartered and set on fire, but not shown, of course), and there will be absolutely NO premarital sex. Another glaring omission from a movie revolving around teenagers: cell phones. Even teenagers with no hands find a way to waste hours texting their friends but no one in this movie even knows what a cell phone is.
My final thought... Not a terrific movie but still better than some I've seen. And there's obviously an audience for it so you can't ignore the fact that sequel(s) will be in theaters every Thanksgiving from now until Armageddon. I guess I couldn't get into it because I kept asking myself why I'd want to pretend to be 17 forever. Edward is supposed to be something like 120 years old but he could pass for 21.
Why waste your immortality going to high school again? College chicks are way easier.
Overall: 5 out of 10. Better than watching High School Musical. But not by much.
Best Scene: Bella is walking through the dangerous streets of the next town over and encounters a group of local punks, who seem to have been drinking (and underage drinking is a sin!) They start to rough to rough her up a little, spouting cliches like, "Hey baby, where you think you're going?" when Edward comes screeching around the corner in his Vampire Volvo. He gets out of the car, forces Bella into the passenger side, and stares at the group of rednecks. Just. Stares. Edward is, at best, 125 lbs, and could get blown away in a Nebraska snowstorm. There are at least four liquored up, backwoods, illiterate, testosterone-spewing, state champ wrestler, pedigree rednecks in the group. And Edward just stares at them. Broodingly. And they back off! I encourage you to try this once in your lifetime. You'll understand why it's the best scene in the movie when you play out in your mind the more likely scenario where scrawny little Edward gets his ass handed to him and sodomized with a traffic cone.
What my wife said: "It's the book, almost page-for-page. It's definitely for book fans." Did I mention she read all four of the books in one weekend?
Who would enjoy this movie: Plan for this: Your wife/girlfriend/fiance/life partner/teenage daughter either read the books already or is waiting to borrow the books from someone. If she's already read them, it's too late. Fake your own death or you're gonna have to watch the movie. If she hasn't read them, offer to rent the movie now (preemptive strike) using the old, "The books are always better than the movie so why would you wanna ruin both by reading it and watching the movie?" It might work. If not... Man up and watch the movie.
Watch it if you like: Underworld. Interview With A Vampire. My So-Called Life. Tiger Beat. The Jonas Brothers. Saved By The Bell.