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Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Saga's blood is running thin
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Genres: Horror, Action
Running Time: 130 min
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some violence and action)
Release Date: 2009-11-20
Tags: There are no tags.
By "Lawrence Toppman, Movie Critic"
The Charlotte Observer

'New Moon' mania -- photos of the young stars

These kids today, with their short attention spans! Why, when I was a youngster, it took time for a werewolf to change: Forelegs lengthened painfully, hair crept across a horrified face, teeth stretched torturously into fangs.

Nowadays, it's just voom! One second you're a beefcake high school boy, the next you bound around like a German shepherd on steroids who's wrapped in a bearskin. Nobody takes the trouble nowadays to make things seem real.

That's the main problem with “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” The fine first film invited non-fans into the world of the girl who loves a vampire but realizes she can't have him. Metaphors for forbidden desire rang true. Characters with aching hearts could speak to people who came to the story as strangers.

The sequel to the 2008 hit “Twilight” makes no effort to satisfy outsiders. It's strictly for devotees who won't balk at plot absurdities, clunky dialogue and patchy characterizations. I suspect loyalists will be pleased, but I can't imagine anyone else wanting to jump into the tale here.

What would a newcomer – or a now-disenchanted fan of the first film, like myself – make of the mumbling panel of Italian vampire judges, who snap off the heads of would-be suicides and transgressors against their policy? (Did Dan Brown write this segment of the script? Are they a long-hidden arm of the Vatican?)

How can we overlook the laughable werewolf effects, especially when the vampires' movements were and still are handled with such finesse? How can we sit with straight faces as Bella (Kristen Stewart) informs Jacob (Taylor Lautner), “I'm not like a car you can fix up. I'm never going to run right”?

This may not matter to people who pay mainly to see Stewart bat her eyes at vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) or widen them when the newly buff Lautner doffs his shirt, which he does about a dozen times. But to those of us who wanted the story to go somewhere, it's frustrating.

Bella is again menaced by evil vampires and again realizes she and Edward can't be a satisfied couple. She has a milder but equally hopeless passion for Jacob, who turns into a mountainous furball when he loses his temper. At the end, she's on the brink of a momentous decision, yet it's clear something will interrupt the course she's chosen.

“New Moon” had the same screenwriter as the first one (Melissa Rosenberg), so the problem may be new director Chris Weitz. He bogged down “The Golden Compass” in the same way, with scenes that ran too long or were unnecessary to begin with. Perhaps the word “Saga” in the title inspired him to epic aspirations; he bloats the film with multiple references to “Romeo and Juliet” and ponderous shots of Bella walking, lost and cow-eyed, in the woods.

The casting is adequate. Stewart never changes expressions, but Pattinson does a lot with a few speeches, and Lautner finally adds weight to his scenes. Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen seem odd casting as cruel Italian vampires, but this use of celebrities must mean they'll have bigger roles in the third picture. I'd rather somebody just pulled my head off now.

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Nov. 19, 2009 - The Charlotte Observer - Lawrence Toppman, Movie Critic

'New Moon' may shine for hardcore fans, but it'll be cheese to all others

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