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'Breaking Dawn -- Part 1' lacks bite for many critics

November 18, 2011 |  6:00 am

Breaking Dawn
Just as the "Twilight" series of books and films split fans into two camps (Team Edward and Team Jacob, for the uninitiated), the latest film, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" is dividing movie critics: Many find the film lifeless and silly, but some are content to go along for the ride.

The Times' Betsy Sharkey laments, " 'Breaking Dawn' kinda sucks, in the metaphoric rather than the vampiric sense." Although the highly anticipated wedding sequence between vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and human Bella (Kristen Stewart) is "superb in its execution," Sharkey feels Stewart is underused on the whole. Ultimately, both the film (directed by Bill Condon, who did "Dreamgirls") and the script (by Melissa Rosenberg) fail "to mine all the dramatic potential of the symbolic implications of immortality." In terms of the "Twilight" franchise, Sharkey ranks "Breaking Dawn" squarely in the middle of the pack.

In the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips says the film barely manages to rise above "pure lousiness" and wonders how a talented director like Condon managed to "deliver the dullest movie of the bunch." Phillips pans Taylor Lautner as the perpetually shirtless werewolf Jacob, saying he has shown little improvement over four movies, and even grouses that the very fine composer Carter Burwell "has been dragged down to a level of mediocre wallpaper music one wouldn't have thought possible."

New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis, however, has given in: She deems "Breaking Dawn" "the latest and best of the movies about a girl, her vampire and their impossible, ridiculously appealing — yes, I surrendered — love story." Unlike Phillips, Dargis finds Condon's direction to be fluid, maintaining a sense of humor amid the melodrama. Dargis also doesn't mind the decision to split the final "Twilight" book into two films, since this installment "takes the arc of human experience — birth and death and everything in between — and works it up into a rich, sudsy lather."

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert pens a lukewarm review, calling the film "absorbing, if somewhat slow-paced" and poking fun at some plot corniness. (Recalling the smiling human wedding guests, he ponders, "Did anyone wonder why Edward apparently possessed not a single relative older than himself?") Ebert writes that he would have liked to get into Bella's head a bit more, as "Kristen Stewart is really pretty good here, although like almost all actresses she believes pregnant women rub their baby bumps unceasingly." He is also one of many critics to comment on the "blood-curdling" birth scene.

Lisa Schwarzbaum, of Entertainment Weekly, has had enough. Having given Stewart's character the benefit of the doubt for three films, Schwarzbaum vents: "Enough with Bella's depressed, ragdoll posture and her eternal gloom. And a pox on 'Breaking Dawn,' the movie, for its contented complicity with Stephenie Meyer's ultimately awful message to millions of readers." She adds, "Yes, I know, 'Twilight' fans love 'The Twilight Saga.' But they (you?) deserve something better to love."

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir writes that Condon has acquitted himself "in satisfying fashion, delivering a voluptuous if often inert spectacle that splits the difference between high camp and decadent romance," though the critic also admits, "This opinion may not be widely shared." For O'Hehir, "Breaking Dawn" is a sort of high-low guilty pleasure: "a lot of it is absolutely ravishing to watch, in the manner of eating hot buttered corn with marshmallows and Champagne."

That's undoubtedly a combination not usually available at the local multiplex, and one that some folks won't have a taste for. But one thing is certain: "Twilight" connoisseurs will gladly sink their teeth in.


Honeymoon with 'Twilight' director Bill Condon

Photos: 'Breaking Dawn — Part I' L.A. premiere

'Breaking Dawn': Stewart, Pattinson, Lautner at a crossroads

-- Oliver Gettell

Photo: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment