The Twilight Saga: New Moon (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Cinemark 16 IMAX, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
There comes a point in this mind-numbing, butt-numbing, two-hour-plus ramble through adolescent sexual fears and desires when a band of buff, shirtless Indian lads is wandering through a misty wood in search of trouble. A smart director might have found some way to make this feel elemental and mythic, considering that the lads are werewolves shifted into human form and our heroine, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), is like an innocent Red Riding Hood. All the elements are there — they just need a touch of cleverness and wit to transform them into something interesting.
But Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass) doesn't appear concerned with adding any of the archetypal gravitas lacking from Stephenie Meyer's trite source material, nor does screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who also penned the first Twilight film. This is an earnest tale unhinged from any of the literary foundations propping it up, except when it's trying to convince us that it's intelligent.
Viewers may not recognize the verse Bella tosses at us as the film opens — "These violent delights have violent ends." But no one could miss the invoking of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (the source of that dramatic line) a little while later, as Bella's English class is watching a video of a performance and Edward (Robert Pattinson) — sparkly, vampire Edward! always-on-the-verge-of-tears Edward! — recites back the last few lines at the teacher's request.
I should give New Moon credit for forcing that bit to serve more than one purpose: It drives home the fact that Twilight is a Romeo-and-Juliet story, in case you couldn't already see that, and it reminds us how awesomely awesome and smart and romantic and tragic Edward is: He's Romeo! And, he can't even kill himself over his heartbreak because he's an immortal vampire! Or can he? That question forms most of what passes for plot here, plus it's a reason for Bella and Edward to mope around a lot.
The rest of the plot goes like this: Bella Cullen. Mrs. Edward Cullen. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen. Ms. Bella Cullen. Mrs. Jacob Black. Jacob and Bella Black. Mrs. Bella Black. Ms. Bella Swan Black. Mrs. Bella Swan Cullen.
Ah, the quandary.
It's about as deep and insightful and amorous as a teenaged girl's playing "Adopt the Name of the Cute Boy You Like and See How It Sounds." It's one thing to indulge the mindset of girls Bella's age, or a little younger, at that moment when boys suddenly get intriguing, but at the same time are terrifying. It's not a moment that movies often explore. But does it have to be this tedious?
Two hours of pretty teenagers — including Bella's werewolf friend, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who doesn't like vampires but does like Bella — making moon eyes at one another in this love triangle is an hour-forty-five too much.
And does Bella have to be so damn annoying, and so poor a role model? Stewart is an engaging screen presence, and she does try to enliven Bella, but the character is shockingly passive: She doesn't do much of anything, just stands around watching things happen to her... except when she's behaving so recklessly that Edward has to come and protect her from herself.
Which brings us to Edward, who is actually 108 years old and frozen at 17, when he became a vampire, but there's no real sense that he's lived for more than a century. How the hell can he stand to go to high school every day, for one thing? Well, I guess he's gotta see Bella.
Evidently, her passivity is appealing, because she's so irresistibly attractive that young men are nearly incapable of controlling themselves around her. And all the while, she puts herself down as ugly and utterly unworthy of Edward's love.