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Forget everything you may have heard about "Twilight" being "The Lost Boys" for the 21st century. Forget the gushing adulation of the hordes of teenage girls (and not a few adults) lining up to see their favorite novel transported to the big screen.
While there hasn't been this sort of mob devotion since the first "Harry Potter" incarnation, it appears, at least to this reviewer (who, in the interest of full disclosure, has not read the book on which the film is based), that the enthusiasm is considerably misplaced.
"Twilight" tells the story of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a social misfit who moves from sunny Phoenix to a small, soggy Washington State hamlet where her father is the chief of police.
Surprisingly, everyone seems to go out of their way to accept her. Everyone, that is, except the mysterious and gorgeous Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Naturally, Edward is the only boy who catches her eye.
Edward is unlike any boy Bella has met, and, through a series of inexplicable but no less convincing incidents, Bella comes to the conclusion that Edward is, in fact, a vampire.
Edward belongs to a family of benign vampires who long ago gave up drinking human blood, choosing instead to dine only on animals. But this choice is tested when he finds himself falling for Bella and confronting overwhelming urges he may not be able to control.
As Bella is drawn deeper into Edward's world, their lives are threatened when a new clan of vampires begins picking off the townsfolk one by one, ultimately settling on Bella.
"Twilight" is pure vampire melodrama. What it lacks in luxurious Anne Rice kitsch, it makes up for with vapid adolescent sensibilities. This is "Vampire 90210," or, perhaps more accurately, the true "Freaks and Geeks." "Twilight" lacks grace, cinemagraphically and in the composition of its languid script. The clumsy screenplay is full of half-formed ideas that read like the juvenile pulp fiction they are.
"Twilight" has next to no action. Instead, we are meant to remain engaged to the story through the power of personality alone. This is not an unreasonable request, but it works only if the screenwriter remembers to give her characters personality in the first place.
The characters in "Twilight" are never fleshed out. No doubt this lack of exploration is to give us something to do in the inevitable follow-ups. Stewart is Nicholas Fehn in the body of a high school girl. Like the "Saturday Night Live" character who improvises his jokes but never makes a clear point or even finishes a sentence, Stewart spends the film fumbling over her words, overlapping her sentences and speaking in such a halting manner that it, at times, elicited laughter from the audience.
Stewart was going for naturalistic, but what she got was a character in desperate need of a speech therapist. What Edward sees in Bella is beyond me. It's a good thing he is drawn to her fragrant pheromones, because her personality isn't remotely appetizing.
Pattinson doesn't fare a whole lot better. Edward is as morose and cold as the soggy weather. Moody and rude, there is likewise no reason why Bella should be remotely attracted to him. Together, the leads have zero chemistry. Director Catherine Hardwicke obviously believes romantic chemistry is composed of nothing more than two hours worth of smoldering glances.
If "Twilight's" cinematic successors are to succeed, they will have to do more than rely on the gorgeous, Northwestern, point-the-camera-anywhere-and-shoot landscape, the overwrought musical stirrings of Carter Burwell, and stock characters that prefer looking good to sounding good. They will have to rise above their juvenile origins and become something greater than the sum of their infantile parts.