If you’re a fan of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series — symptoms include Googling the phrase “Team Jacob,” being in a bookstore at 12:01 a.m. on the day that “Breaking Dawn” came out, or pricing “The lion fell in love with the lamb” ankle tattoos — you won’t be disappointed by the movie version.
If the squealing fangirls at the advance screening I attended are any indication, you Twilighters will go nuts at the introduction of each character, at the lifting of dialogue directly from the book, and at the brooding, yearning glances shared by the story’s star-crossed lovers.
You can also stop reading this review now, because you’re going to see this movie anyway, and now I’m going to talk to the people who, like me, are coming to the material for the first time.
Is it just we non-fans now? Good.
“Twilight” is a vampire movie, but it’s not a horror movie; if it were, it might sport a title like “The Pouting” or “Attack of the Albino Hollister Models” or “Bloodsucker Prom Date.” It’s never an easy task to bring a hit book to the screen, but by filling the screen with stares, stammers and silences, director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg tread into the territory of unintentional hilarity.
When pallid sexpot Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) warns good-girl Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) not to get involved with him, he may be trying to save her life from his carnal ways, but the patter comes off as the usual bad-boy catnip that nice teenage gals simply can’t resist. The fact that Pattinson accentuates almost every line by widening his eyes as much as possible and then not blinking for an uncomfortably long period of time is the stuff of future drinking games.
Also risible is the fact that Bella is as much a female fantasy character as Diane Lane’s household saint in “Nights in Rodanthe.” Bella is a smart, shy girl who also happens to be totally gorgeous. Her parents are divorced, but they’re both nice and they both love her dearly. Generous Bella decides to allow mom to travel with her new husband, a minor-league baseball player (who is also nice), and leaves Phoenix to go live with her dad in the small town of Forks, Wash.
As would happen with any smart, shy girl who transfers to a new school in the middle of the academic year, the popular kids at her new school immediately embrace Bella. And then, before she knows it, she’s got two boys in love with her: the ethereal Edward and the hunky Jacob (Taylor Lautner). And as if all that weren’t enough, both boys are violating the rules of their respective clans by falling in love with Bella. Because she’s that awesome.
Meyer’s fans will no doubt flutter at every scene (and there are many of them) where Edward and Bella stare at each other with intent — “Twilight” has more meaningful glances than an entire season of “As the World Turns” — but the lead actors fail to breathe life into these cardboard, romance-novel archetypes.
Thankfully, Hardwicke tossed some interesting character actors into the mix — notably Anna Kendrick from “Camp,” now all grown up with the décolletage to prove it — to imbue the second bananas with some spark for the few moments they can pull focus from Jane Eyre Lite and The 100-Year-Old Virgin.
In the final analysis, Hardwicke has shrewdly made a film that will appeal to the audience that could make or break it. But there’s little here to win over those of us without dog-eared copies of “Twilight” under our beds.