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MOVIE REVIEW: 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1' caters to preteen audience

Photo by Corinne Nicholson 

Photo by Corinne Nicholson 

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1

(PG-13)

1 out of 4 stars

Never before in the history of feature films has an MPAA rating so reflected and defined a movie or franchise as it has with the "Twilight" flicks. For both content and the target audience, "PG-13" says everything you'll ever need to know. They are safe enough and specifically intended for female preteen consumption.

The first thing you want to do in order to make it safe for teeny-boppers is to start with the most bland, listless, non-violent, sexless and politically correct source material imaginable -- something the four novels by Mormon writer Stephenie Meyer more than accomplish.

Over the course of the three previous films, the romantic relationship between leads Bella (Kristin Stewart) and vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) has remained as it started: chaste, asexual and thunderously dull. In "Breaking Dawn, Part 1," the waiting is finally over for them and the audience. It opens with a soap-opera suited wedding set in a forest with decor that seems to have been designed by Hobbits.

Bella is walked down the aisle by her father Charlie (Billy Burke) and both have the same pained, constipated expression. They look as if they're at a wake, not her wedding. With the nuptials over, Edward and Bella head off to a secluded Brazilian island for the deflowering. There's a bunch of moonlight, mood music, innocuous soft rock and a home outfitted by Pottery Barn. Sure enough, the deed takes place -- off-screen. It must have been good because in the morning the bedroom appears to have been hit by a cyclone. Bella has bruises all over her body and she is pregnant. With yet another of Meyer's abstinence metaphors, we get a morality lecture. Even after marriage, sex is bad and you'll instantly get knocked up by the demon's seed.

Now carrying a half-human, half-undead, rapidly-growing fetus, Bella starts to wither while delivering slight variations on the constipated expression. For the already rail-thin Stewart, quick wait loss, no make-up and a tummy the size of a beach ball is not flattering.

The make-up not applied to Stewart is applied to Edward and the rest of his Victorian-era, Abercrombie & Fitch-adorned Cullen "family." With the lone exception of Ashley Greene, every one of them has a pasty-white veneer, nasty pink-eye and excruciatingly bad hair.

The same kind of shoddy, slapdash approach to hair, make-up, costume and set design is applied to the special effects. Not since the advent of CGI has everything looked this fake and been executed with such laughable ineptness. The bulk of these scenes involve Jacob (the uni-brow Taylor Lautner, shirtless only once) and his brood of werewolves. In an effort to mask a multitude of imperfections, director Bill Condon speeds things up and/or bathes the images in different shades of black. A fight scene -- bloodless and death-free as usual -- between the werewolves and the vampires in the third act is beyond bad. A fifth-grader with antiquated 20th century software could have done a better job.

The sole saving grace of the movie that Condon and franchise screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg save the "best" for last. The 15 or so minutes dedicated to the delivering of Bella's baby does achieve some level of authenticity and visual competency. It also has more blood than all of the other movies combined and concludes with an admittedly grabbing cliffhanger.

Waiting two hours for one good scene is not most people's idea of a good time or money well spent which is OK because most people will have no interest in seeing this movie. Yes it will do killer box-office, but it will be courtesy of the "Twilight" die-hards, most of whom will see it more than twice, many on the same today or back-to-back.

In a most calculating and money-grubbing move, Summit studios has decided they are going to wait a full year from now before releasing the final "Twilight" installment. This might peeve the faithful somewhat but not enough to even remotely crush their interest. If they're patient and forgiving enough to sit through eight hours of nothing happening multiple times, they can endure another year for the last act to play out. (Summit)