At Quality 16 and Showcase

Courtesy of Summit

2 stars out of 5 stars

The tale of a young girl falling head-over-heels in love with a vampire has made millions of teenage girls, and maybe a few guys too, around the world go crazy. But the “Twilight” phenomenon is puzzling. What’s the big deal with the book anyway? Unfortunately, the film version will only serve to perplex people even more.

In “Twilight,” Bella (Kristen Stewart, “Panic Room”) moves from sunny Arizona to the gray and rainy town of Forks, Wash. There, she meets the pale, moody and incredibly gorgeous Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”), who is repulsed by her. This, in turn, intrigues Bella and she becomes even more fascinated when she discovers the truth about Edward. His revulsion turns out to be a way to mask his insatiable desire to drink her blood. Yes, he’s a vampire. Despite the great differences between the two, they fall deeply in love.

Ridiculous? Yes. But on the page it works wonderfully. We can see the burgeoning romance between the two, and it all makes sense. But when translated to screen, it’s clear how much the novel’s success depended on readers’ imaginations. We know these two are in love because that’s what the novel tells us, but it’s awfully hard to believe it in the movie.

What “Twilight” truly lacks is subtlety. Everything is too over-the-top, and many moments just don’t plain work, where serious romantic scenes cause an entire audience to burst into giggles. Not a good sign.

Low budget is one thing, and this film clearly is, but cheesy is quite another. Why has no one figured out that slow motion just doesn’t work for movies outside “The Matrix?” Also, quite a bit of the film’s budget must have went to buy gallons of white face powder for the vampire teens.

But not all is lost in the film adaptation. With his high cheekbones and smoldering gaze (there’s really no other phrase for it), Pattinson has turned pale into the new hot. Even when his lines become ridiculous by tween standards (like when Edward tells Bella to “Hold on tight, Spider Monkey” as he climbs a tree with her on his back), Pattinson brings a level of professionalism more than unequaled by Stewart. While talented in many other films, Stewart delivers each breathy line as heavily as if she just finished running a marathon.

The supporting cast, mainly Edward’s family and Bella’s father, is delightful. It’s unfortunate that the film gives us so little time to get to know them. When they’re on screen, the film is infused with the energy that’s so lacking in the scenes between Edward and Bella.

Understanding why the novels sell is simple: Teenage girls everywhere found a little bit of themselves in the character of Bella, and they cheered to see this shy, clumsy girl win the heart of a beautiful, almost-perfect boy. Shy and clumsy, though, seems to translate into socially awkward and unbearably dull on film.

Those who haven’t read the novel will most likely find themselves woefully confused, since the film explains fails to elaborate on the telling elements of the book. “Twilight” knows its audience and caters specifically to them. For fans of the novel, bad reviews won’t stop them from seeing this movie, but they may prepare them for the disappointment that will follow.

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