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Movie Review: Twilight

Twilight -- Photo Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.
Recommended for ages 11 and up
Run Time: 121 minutes
Quick Take: Lock up your daughters? Nah. Twilight's undead heartthrob -- and vampire romance -- is mostly harmless.

Twilight Lives (and Lives...) Up to Teens' Expectations

Sometimes a lowly movie reviewer can feel so inconsequential.

Take the movie Twilight.

I'd like to think my pithy words and self-important opining might actually matter. But one look at the Edward-smitten, Jacob-longing Twilight faithful and I realized I'm about as useful as a double-sized Sno-cone on a February day. In North Dakota. On an ice pond. During a blizzard.

The breathless fans in the lobby, on the other hand -- two enthusiastic fangs way up.

"It was amazing," gasped 16-year-old Jillian, who earlier in the month sat glued to the radio to win tickets to a screening.

"Oh my God, we luvvvvvvved it!" echoed a pack of self-titled tween "Twilighters" who YouTubed the trailer so often pre-movie it was committed to memory.

For the uninitiated, Twilight is the broodingly romantic book about Bella Swan, a self-conscious, misunderstood teen, and her astonishingly handsome, protective vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen. Ravenous fans fell hard for the forbidden-love story, reading and re-reading (and re-reading) the book and its sequels and becoming ravenous for the big-screen release. In the theater, they gripped the armrests and giggled nervously as they awaited the first glimpse of their beloved Edward (Robert Pattinson), the embodiment of the perfect, unattainable man they've imagined since reading that first sentence about him. His arrival was met with such a breathless gasp, I thought the heart of the girl behind me would simply flop out of her chest and fall to the floor.

Such idolatry created a complication for producers. How to find an Edward who is, as the book says, "devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful," a creature who has been living in the imaginations of roughly 14-million minds? While Pattinson isn't conventionally pretty, he's piercing and sultry enough (and hey, he's got Dylan McCay hair!) to please even those fans unconvinced of his "Edw-orthiness." He and his Bella (Kristen Stewart) make a winningly smoldering pair. Playing out their romance in front of director Catherine Hardwicke's effectively gloomy, understated indie-film backdrop, the two dance through a screenplay that's largely faithful to the book, even if it can be a tad irksome to viewers on both sides. The faithful are jangled by occasional detours from the print edition (necessary both to pare down the nearly 500-page tome and to add action), while neophytes wrestle with understanding Bella's choices ("He wants to kill me! But, he's hot!") since they're missing many of her thought processes played out in the book. And, there's an occasional campiness about the film -- Edward's makeup and expression made me sometimes think of a Lillian Gish movie -- and the flashback to the vamp's undying day was über-camp -- is hard to quantify: Is he overacting or self-aware?

Still, it all makes for an entertaining affair that will please the devoted. Filmmakers left the swoonworthy romance intact, and added stunt sequences to entertain male viewers who will inevitably be recruited as dates. And, fans were undeterred by the little nitpicks. Despite their assertion that Edward's eyes were the wrong color ("They're supposed to be topaz!") the aforementioned Twilighters vowed to see the film enough times to commit it to memory, just as they did the trailer. And, that should make the production company very happy.

And, in case anyone cares ... I liked it, too.

Kids Will Like:
What won't they like? (Presuming we're talking about tween and teen girls.) As in the books, Edward is handsome, strong, protective, heroic -- the perfect boyfriend, if not for the fact that he might kill you. Such unattainability makes him all that much more attractive and, in a strange way, less threatening. In Bella, girls find someone they identify with, an offbeat outsider who at last finds love and acceptance -- and from the hottest guy in school! Swoon-worthy moments include "the kiss," an event that was reportedly toned down from an early cut of the film, but that was still passionate enough to leave girls in the theater gasping for air. Bella's high school classmates (Jessica, Mike) were big hits, a fact that 13-year-old Natalie insightfully chalked up to their minor roles in the books. "You didn't have such a clear picture of them in your head," she said. There were a few quibbles about whether Bella was too pretty, and Team Jacob (for those not in the know, Twilighters are mostly split between Team Jacob and Team Edward) might be disappointed at the dearth of that character's screen time. And, oh, those detours from the book: My own daughter was positively livid that they tinkered with perfection (though she'll be seeing it again, too).

Parents Will Like:
While some kids thought Edward wasn't pretty enough, many moms respectfully disagreed (for the record, my daughter imagined a young Julian McMahon). But even those who weren't bowled over by the whole teenaged vampire thing will smile knowingly over their daughters' reactions to the latest Dylan McCay, David Cassidy, or whatever heartthrob haunted their teen dreams. Filmmakers did a good job inserting humor, and the baseball scene, a highlight, is one of the film's few moments of unbridled lightness.

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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