November 26, 2009

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon (PG-13)
A teenage girl, like, totally longs for her sparkly vampire boyfriend even while better-looking dudes keep taking their shirts off in front of her in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, part two of the bedazzled incense-scented purple unicorn of a series that is The Twilight Saga.

So, in case you missed the first movie, allow me to sum up: A sulky teen named Bella (Kristen Stewart) lives in gloomy Washington State and is in a whole Muse album of love with Edward (Robert Pattinson), her boyfriend who just happens to be a vampire. He doesn’t suck human blood (he’s a vamp-vegetarian, if you consider humans the animals and animals the veg in this situation) but in sunlight his pale emo-singer complexion becomes sparkly, like he’s the world’s dreamiest glitter sticker.

And, they don’t have sex, they just kiss a little and sorta breathe on each other.

Movie Two: Bella is in her senior year of high school and about to turn 18 — a disturbing fact for her because it makes her older than Edward (in terms of the age he was when he was made undead; in years-on-earth age, he’s in his 100s). They are so in love they (and we) can hardly stand it but after reading Romeo & Juliet in English class (that Shakespeare, always causing trouble) and a paper cut incident, Edward decides to pull the old “I don’t love you” trick and leave Bella for her own good.

After months and months (covered, thankfully, in music montage) of hardcore mope, Bella perks up when she discovers that a rush of danger will bring with it the sensation of Edward’s presence. So she decides to chase the thrill, culminating in her decision to get her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) — a minor character from Movie One — to help her rebuild some old motorcycles. The project brings them closer together — though, to Jacob’s dismay, their closeness is still occurring solidly within the borders of the Friend Zone.

Just as it looks like Jacob might stand a chance of pushing Bella out of the FZ, he gets all furrowed of brow and secretive. As we all know and the movie takes an eternity of minutes to get to, Jacob is in fact a werewolf and he is now part of a pack of boy-wolves patrolling the woods, on the hunt for a vampire that’s been causing trouble.

So, SPOILER ALERT, for all none of you who haven’t read the book but still care really deeply about this series: Eventually Edward returns to the plot and Bella ultimately has to pick which not-quite-human boy she wants to be with. That both of them have broken up with her using the “I’m no good for you” pose seems to have escaped, rather than irritated or insulted, her. Perhaps it’s because both option vampire and option werewolf are physically appealing. Jacob — whether through the actor’s actual working out, some nifty CGI or both — is now ripped like a life-sized plastic He-Man figurine. Edward, as previously mentioned, looks like the love child of Morrissey (circa The Smiths) and a disco ball.

And really, what they look like is probably what the movie needs us to focus on. More acting, more emoting is required by this movie than the last one and nobody pulls that off very well. Stewart wears the same about-to-sneeze expression she did throughout all of the last movie, occasionally turning it to about-to-sneeze, variant sad. Pattinson’s acting appears to come from the Hayden Christensen School of Teen Anguish. He has that same whiny mall rat quality Christensen did in the I-love-the-way-your-love-loves-me scenes with Natalie Portman in the Star Wars prequels. (And while the teen girls of the audience were clearly filled with desire toward Pattinson, my Edward-related desire was quite different. I deeply deeply desired the chance to reach up and smack the back of his head, dope-smack-style, and say “snap out of it,” perhaps adding a “and quit doing that to your hair” as he sulked away. I believe this officially makes me Too Old To Get It.) Lautner’s acting chops are, well, exactly what you’d expect from a plastic He-Man (though, you know, one held by someone with a few college acting classes under his belt).

Yes, the acting is ridiculous (matching the dialogue and pacing), but I don’t know that I can completely condemn this movie — and not just because it’s sort of enjoyably hilarious. (Particularly delightful is when Michael Sheen — Tony Blair in The Queen and The Deal and David Frost in Frost/Nixon — shows up as a royal vampire during the last quarter of the movie. I love that even as he lends his talents to Oscar-nominated “important” films he’ll also show up as a frilly-shirt-wearing vampire or, in the Underworld movies, as a werewolf.) New Moon does do one specific thing really well, perhaps better than any movie I’ve seen in a long time: It captures the kind of all-in, can’t-think-straight, physical-need drunken crazy infatuation that is the young girl’s idea of love. On this one thing it zeros in with sci-fi-laser-like precision and exactly hits the I’ll-die-without-him spot. It is perhaps this unironic core of bad-poems-in-your-diary romance that keeps the film from becoming a total farce.

But, hey, don’t let that stop you from inventing a drinking game and holding a Twilight/New Moon night with your friends and a pitcher full of cocktails. The embarrassing sincerity of its emotions aside, New Moon is a giggly good time even for those of us who don’t already have our tickets purchased for Eclipse in June 2010. C+

Rated PG-13 for some violence and action. Directed by Chris Weitz and written by Melissa Rosenberg (from the widely successful novel by Stephenie Meyer), The Twilight Saga: New Moon is two hours and 10 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Summit Entertainment.