November 21, 2008


One Tree Chill

Grade: C –

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Nikki Reed, and Anna Kendrick

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

Forget for a moment the juvie frenzy associated with Stephanie Meyer’s bestselling Twilight series. Fact is every couple of years another incarnation of the vampire mythology rise from the grave and sinks its teeth into pop culture – Buffy the Vampire SlayerUnderworldInterview with the Vampire, the Blade trilogy, and, of course, various remakes of Dracula. On one hand, Twilight, the film adaptation of Meyer’s first novel from director Catherine Hardwicke (ThirteenLords of Dogtown), bears greatest similarities to The Lost Boys and its kitschy take on adolescent vampires gone wild. Unfortunately, this turgid tale of forbidden, foreboding teen love more closely resembles the pilot of a midseason replacement on The CW.

When Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart) relocates from Phoenix to Forks, Washington in order to reconnect with her estranged dad (Billy Burke), she finds an eclectic citizenry that includes Native Americans who are brethren with wolves, and a cliché of odd high schoolers who couldn’t draw more attention to themselves – without supposedly wanting to – if they all hung signs around their necks that read, “Warning: Vampire!”

Hunky yet aloof vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) takes a liking to Bella because, unlike everyone else, he cannot read her thoughts (neither Edward’s attraction nor Bella’s invisible firewall are ever explained). So begins an uneasy romance that rests on the fact that Edward must hope his love for Bella overwhelms his desire to guzzle her blood. In other words, Bella falls for the bad boy, while Edward is another man forced to become more sensitive in order to keep a girl.

Triteness aside, the primary problem with Bella and Edward’s star-crossed dalliance is that precious little that is interesting ever happens other than woeful acting and even worse dialogue. “You’re my own personal brand of heroin,” mumbles Edward (cue unintended laughter). “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore,” intones one of them (it doesn’t matter who). And, the “Stupid Lamb”/”Sick, Masochistic Lion” exchange, one of the book’s iconic buzz phrases, just sounds silly coming from two sullen actors who look as though they prepared for their roles by watching a “One Tree Hill” marathon interspersed with Abercrombie & Fitch ads. Gone is any of the book’s playful, lively banter, replaced only with dull adolescent angst.

Only Bella’s non-predatory friends add a spark of life to the film, especially her spunky friend, Jessica (Anna Kendrick, the standout in last year’s high-school debate comedy, Rocket Science). And, there is a brief, semi-amusing Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scene when Bella visits Edward’s vampire family. However, the only real action comes with a trio of rogue blood-suckers wanders into town and starts hunting human prey. But, even this hurried subplot falls victim to Hardwicke’s low production quality.

Nevertheless, a film like Twilght, particularly the shrieking preteens at the early screening I attended, makes me recall Marty McFly’s line from Back To The Future: “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.”

Neil Morris

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