Bella + Edward + Jacob = a pale 'New Moon'
A review of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," a bland, earnest depiction of Stephenie Meyer's tale of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and the teenage monsters she loves. By Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.
Seattle Times movie critic
'The Twilight Saga: New Moon,' with Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Rachelle Lefevre, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning. Directed by Chris Weitz, from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer. 130 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some violence and action. Several theaters.
Interview with 'New Moon' actors
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'Twilight' takes over Forks
Senior year can be a bummer when you fall in love with a vampire and a werewolf. Such is the message of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," an earnest yet often unintentionally funny depiction of the perils of youthful romance. Decorated with a parade of shirtless men and punctuated by Kristen Stewart's rarely varying facial expression of soulful, open-mouthed confusion (well, wouldn't you be confused, with all those monsters and bare chests running around?), the movie gives the "Twilight" fans exactly what they want but doesn't offer too much for the rest of us.
In Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular "Twilight" books, the teenage heroine Bella is a blank slate onto which readers can project themselves. She has little personality and seemingly doesn't exist except in the eyes of the men she loves (first the moody vampire Edward, then the sunny werewolf Jacob), who frequently rescue her from peril. But when moved from page to screen, the character's blandness becomes a liability: Stewart, as Bella, has nothing to play except longing.
Director Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass") doesn't help Stewart bring anything fresh to her performance, leaving "New Moon" with a serious charisma deficit. Nor can he solve an unfortunate technical problem from the first movie: the ruby-lipped Edward (Robert Pattinson), who's supposed to sparkle angelically in the light, looks like he's been doused with Glitter Glue.
Instead, Weitz marches us solemnly and slowly through the book's plot. After an unfortunate incident involving a paper cut at a party full of vampires (don't you hate it when that happens?), Edward reluctantly breaks up with Bella and splits, leaving her to spend several months staring out the window. (Literally.) She is consoled by the newly buff Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and realizes that she loves him — but alas, nothing is ever simple in Forks. "Am I the wrong kind of monster for you?" Jacob demands, when Bella declines his advances. Oh, Bella. It's enough to make you don a Team Mike T-shirt.
Moony glances are exchanged, with Pattinson often looking like he's got a mild case of food poisoning (is this an extremely subtle bit of business in which Edward is physically sickened by his thirst for Bella's blood, or is it just lazy acting?), and meaningful conversations unfold, in which we learn that werewolves too have intimacy issues and that lines like "Leaving you was the hardest thing I've done in 100 years" are funny even when delivered straight. There's undeniable chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson, but Weitz doesn't know what to do with it — all their conversations have the same rhythms.
That fine actor Michael Sheen ("The Queen") pops round, throwing himself into a weirdly hissy portrayal of a 2,000-year-old vampire king, and Dakota Fanning is mesmerizing in a small role as an extremely self-possessed child vampire. (The vampires, it should be noted, are given much more personality — not to mention better hair — than the werewolves, an imbalance only partly addressed by the werewolves' general shirtlessness.)
Fans should be happy with this film's careful faithfulness to the book, but the star-crossed romance that gave "Twilight" some energy is for the most part missing here. Ultimately, "New Moon" comes down to a simple love triangle, and an only fleetingly interesting one. Pass the popcorn.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com