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Originally published November 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 20, 2008 at 4:57 PM

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Movie review

"Twilight" is a teen love story without much bite

Teen girls rejoice: The "Twilight" movie is faithful to Stephenie Meyer's book, says movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Twilight"

With Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick, Michael Welch, Justin Chon. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality. Several theaters.

Video | Fans line up at "Twilight" sneak preview

The crowded preview screening of "Twilight," the teen-vampire drama based on Stephenie Meyer's popular novel, turned out to be a participatory event. The teenage girls in the audience, some of whom had waited in line for hours, responded audibly and enthusiastically to favorite lines of dialogue, to the appearance of handsome male vampires and to the romantic coupling of the heroine Bella with Edward, a relatively chaste yet steamy encounter that had the two girls in front of me writhing in anticipation and murmuring, "Do it!"

For the record, the movie's teen stars don't do much more than stare at each other palely for two hours, with lips parted and vaguely troubled facial expressions suggestive of having just eaten some bad seafood. Meyer's novel comes to the screen in an earnest, faithful adaptation that's at times unintentionally funny, particularly in its first half.

Set in Forks, Clallam County (though filmed mostly in Oregon), the story focuses on new student Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her dangerous attraction to Edward (Robert Pattinson), a high-school classmate who bears the burden of being a perpetually teenage vampire — which would, of course, suck. (Sorry.) He's a "vegetarian," meaning that he's trained himself to drink only animal blood, so he takes the risk of falling in love with Bella, a process that consists mostly of the aforementioned staring.

Though Edward's affections come with all the danger that vampire attraction implies ("vegetarianism" only goes so far), he's a gentleman and heroically restrains himself. Not so gentlemanly is James (Auburn native Cam Gigandet, nicely snarling and frequently shirtless), a tracker who meets Bella at a vampire baseball game (!!) and wants her for an hors d'oeuvre. (Trackers are vampires for whom the thrill of the hunt is primary.) Determined to rescue Bella from a hellish fate, Edward races off with her in the movie's suspenseful final half-hour. As you might expect, all ends with the most naked thing in the movie: a plug for a sequel.

Director Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen") and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg do well in creating the close-knit world of the high school, making an agreeable human swarm around Bella: quintessential nice guy Mike (Michael Welch), lovably geeky Eric (Justin Chon), sweetly friendly Jessica (Anna Kendrick, whose teenspeak intonation — "I know, riiight?" — is perfect). The swirly, MTV-meets-"The Matrix" camerawork is flashy but effective, particularly in the scenes in which Edward, carrying Bella, soars through the forest as if shot from a gun.

But the Cullen family of vampires, so vivid in Meyer's pages, fares less well; perhaps they're better suited to our imaginations. Their clown-white makeup looks chalky and fake, and Edward's diamond-sparkling skin in the sunlight is reminiscent of glitter glue. And the actors don't have the otherworldly quality that's needed. "Sometimes you speak as if you're from a different time," says Bella to Edward — a line directly from the book. But Edward sounds pretty much like everyone else, and his brooding demeanor seems to owe as much to teenage surliness as to vampire angst.

Stewart and Pattinson eventually work up some chemistry, though the movie's nearly over before it kicks in. Nonetheless, "Twilight" is often a lot of fun to watch — the atmosphere of wet green trees and subtle danger, the gothic breathiness of doomed romance, the way all the vampires have better hair than anyone else — and seems to give its intended audience what it wants. Just ask the girls in front of me.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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