With both the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises all used up until their inevitable reboot, there is a massive gap in the market to be filled by teen-lit adaptations. Step forward Beautiful Creatures, the first of four stories within the Caster Chronicles series. The plot involves Ethan (Alden Ehrenrich), a teenager in a small Carolina town who dreams of nothing more than to escape from the small-minded, backwater folk he's surrounded by and go discover the world. That is until Lena (Alice Englert) arrives in town. Amidst a cloud of rumours that her and her family are all Satan-worshippers, Lena piques Ethan's interest with her shared love of mature literature. But all is not what it seems, as it turns out the towns-folk weren't too far off with their guesses; Lena is a soon-to-be Castor (a witch to you and me), and on her 16th birthday she must decide whether or not she will choose the light or dark side of magic.
So what we have here is a mix of Harry Potter AND Twilight, but with a young cast that can actually act. Ehrenrich is hugely likeable as the lead - the perfect mix of funny, charming and understandably befuddled. Englert makes less of an impression, as she has to sulk her way through most of the movie, but is thankfully more of a Katniss Everdeen than a Bella Swan. These two are surrounded by a coven of Oscar-winners and nominees; Jeremy Irons as Lena's protective uncle, Viola Davis as Ethan's housekeeper (of sorts), and the fantastic Emma Thompson as the scenery chewing villain, Sarafine.
Initially starting off with some witty, Mean Girls-esque dialogue, once the plot takes hold it unfortunately drops the charade of intelligence and falls into a slump of predictable plot points and murky storytelling. The set-pieces call for Harry Potter style budgets, but unfortunately the special effects just aren't up to scratch, sometimes being almost laughably bad. Director Richard LaGravenese (PS I Love You) gets some real chemistry from his two leads, but they've been dropped into the middle of a sub-par story, that ends with some serious sequel bait. On the back of this, you shouldn't expect the next adaptation in the Caster Chronicles series any time soon.