There's a playfulness that seems just so right in Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight. The director of thirteen gives Stephenie Meyer's hit novel about teen vampires a little edge, a little sexual heat. But she makes it fun, too.
The irresistible force that draws Bella, the new girl at Forks High, to Edward, the dreamy classmate with pale skin and red, red lips, is lust. And lust can be funny.
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But after a brooding, arms-length courtship of overcast days, near-accidents and almost kisses, Edward's clan heads out in a thunderstorm to play baseball. And Twilight tumbles from romantic into laughable. Buffy the Vampire Dater becomes Transylvania High School Musical.
The fetching but humorless Kristen Stewart is Bella, a girl so swoony over her new biology lab partner that she cannot close her lips. Who can blame her? Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), hair piled high and with eyes that seem to match that hair color, is dreamy but rude. He's instantly put off by Bella, and that puts her off.
Then a car almost crushes Bella in the school parking lot. In a flash, Edward is by her side, stopping the careening student driver, denting the dude's car with just his touch. He instantly regrets it.
“Can't you just thank me and get over it?”
They fight the feeling, and Bella does her homework. A Native American friend of the family, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), gives her hints of “the legend.” Google gives her more. Seeing the rest of the Cullen clan — pale, incestuously close, ageless and sophisticated — gives them away.
But can these kids find love? Will Bella touch Edward's icy skin and melt his cold, cold heart?
Meanwhile, Bella's dad, the police chief (Billy Burke), is tracking local “animal attacks” that might not be the work of your run-of-the-mill wolf or grizzly. A trio of nomadic vampires dressed like Mötley Crüe groupies (Cam Gigandet, Edi Gathegi and Rachelle Lefevre) have moved into this hunting ground. They get a whiff of Bella, and it's game on.
Hardwicke boils down Meyer's novel into a sort of Romeo & Juliet, star-crossed lovers whom the fates keep apart. This is more Superman: The Movie, with Bella's e_SDHpincessant Q&A sessions with Edward, getting the parameters of Meyer's vampire universe. The relationship at the heart of the film has heat, but Stewart isn't up to delivering the “I'll just die” longing that we all feel at that age. And the effects that show Edward's speed are cut-rate comical.
The situations, in high school and among the vampires, are overly familiar, but the dialogue is mostly flip and hip. Some of the laughs are intentional, some not. A vampire using the word vegetarian? Funny.
There are four books in this series, so if Twilight hits, they'll make more. Two more movies of restraint, controlling your teenage urges? Like Edward, we've all had practice at that.