A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Beautiful Creatures is based on the best-selling paranormal romance by Kami Garcia and Maragaret Stohl. Teens and mature tweens, especially fans of the four-part book series, will be eager to see the tale brought to life on the big screen. The movie has even more romance (including kissing, making out, and seduction) than in the book, with the central couple moving out of "friends" mode faster here than they did in the original story. Language includes "s--t" and "ass," and there's gun and magical violence that kills one beloved character and injures a bunch of mean teens. Discussion fodder includes some messages about the dangers of being close minded.
What's the story?
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is told from the perspective of 16-year-old Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), who lives in the fictional small (and close-minded) town of Gatlin, South Carolina. Nothing and no one ever changes in Gatlin ... until the first day of junior year, when Ethan meets his new classmate, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the 15-year-old niece of wealthy and feared town recluse Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons). Lena bears an uncanny resemblance to a mysterious girl who has repeatedly popped up in Ethan's dreams, and he's immediately taken with her. As they get to know each other, Ethan realizes that Lena and her family aren't the Satanists the townsfolk claim; they're witches, or "Casters." And on her 16th birthday, Lena will be "claimed" for either the forces of light of the forces of darkness.
Is it any good?
The leads are both appealing, and their romance is refreshingly sweet and tender -- as opposed to obsessive and controlling, as is so common in the genre. Although the Romeo and Juliet-like romance between young Ethan and Lena is the heart of Beautiful Creatures, this is a movie in which the grown-up characters have all the fun. Unlike Twilight or The Hunger Games, where the adults stay in the background, Irons, Viola Davis (Ammah, the town librarian), and Emma Thompson (town bigot Mrs. Lincoln) are enough reason for parents to accompany their teen daughters to the theater. Thompson and Irons are deliciously campy as they chew up the scenery, while Davis -- as always -- plays a sage and morally infallible mentor.
That said, devoted book fans hoping for a super-faithful adaptation are out of luck; writer-director Richard LaGravenese has taken considerable liberties to streamline the nearly 600-page novel into a two-hour film that leaves you wondering what will happen next. But he's kept the overall themes and (most) major characters -- including the lush, Southern setting with its oppressive heat and even more oppressive attitudes. The end doesn't provide a satisfying closure, so if another great cast could be summoned, a sequel wouldn't be unwelcome.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Beautiful Creatures' message. What is it saying about being open to differences? About censorship?
How does the Beautiful Creatures story contrast to Twilight? Are there any similarities beyond the forbidden young love?
Is Ethan and Lena's romance a positive relationship role model for teens? How do each of them make sacrifices for the other's well being? Is it believable for a 15- and 16-year-old to have such an intense connection?
Fans of the books: What changes made sense for the page-to-screen transformation? What parts do you miss?
- In theaters: February 13, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: May 21, 2013
- Cast: Alice Englert, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons
- Director: Richard LaGravenese
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, High School
- Run time: 124 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, scary images and some sexual material
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.