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Stephanie Zacharek

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Film critic. Loves comedy, tragedy and watching stuff get blowed up real good.

Review: ‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2′ Is Campy, Crazy and Still a Letdown

4.5

It’s sometimes hard to convince so-called cinephiles that movies don’t have to be good to be enjoyable, and the “Twilight” series is a case in point. The films based on Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-romance series have been desperately uneven, but even the worst of them feeds a desire that so few movies today even attempt to fulfill: There’s so little go-for-broke romance anymore, and the on-again, off-again liaison between human girl Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire boy Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) – with a little intrigue thrown in by werewolf dude Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) – has offered a vision of fairy-tale love that’s at least half visceral, tooth-and-claw vital the way real-life love affairs sometimes are. So what if the other half comes straight out of an old Love’s Baby Soft commercial?

But “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” brings the series to a bumpy landing. Both this capper and its earlier half, last year’s placenta-sploodge extravaganza “Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” were directed by Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters,” “Kinsey”), who gave the series a much-needed jolt of Frankenstein-style electricity after the fake-fur cheesiness of 2009’s “New Moon” and 2010’s “Eclipse.” (Those were directed by Chris Weitz and David Slade, respectively.)

In “Part 1,” Condon served up sex that literally breaks the bed, and a childbirth scene that Dario Argento would have been proud of. But “Part 2” is humdrum, despite the presence of a half-human, half-vampire superchild and a balls-out battle between the vampire-and-werewolf gang and a bunch of pseudo-ecclesiastical authority figures known as the Volturi.

For those of you who are not up to speed on the “Twilight” mythology – well, at this point, God help you. While “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” was zany enough, and entertaining enough, to almost work as a stand-alone, “Part 2” relies on mad rushes of exposition to explain exactly what’s at stake here. In short, Bella and Edward have had a child, who has been given the dorky made-up name Renesmee. (In “Part 1,” the name was actually the butt of a joke or two.) Renesmee is growing by leaps and bounds – like, by two pounds a minute or something. By age 4, she’s likely to be a 78-year-old chain-smoking Bingo aficionado, reflecting on the life that went by all too fast. But, as we learn later in the movie, it doesn’t quite work that way.

Anyhow, Jacob is not the father of little Renesmee, though he will have an important role in her life. And that’s a good thing, because she may need to lean on his considerable brawn: The Volturi are angry with Bella, Edward and their extended family, because they believe the Cullen clan has broken a serious law by harboring a demon child .

Did I mention that Bella is now a vampire, with both superstrength and super bloodthirst? Apparently, that makes for some really hot and tireless vampire-on-vampire sex, although unfortunately, the movie sketches that out only in the most glancing way. Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg fill the movie up with something resembling, but not actually equaling, suspense as Bella, Edward and Jacob rush to assemble a team of witnesses who will persuade the Volturi that little Renesmee – while possessing special powers – actually means no harm.

Nay! say the Volturi, led by Michael Sheen in bad Pagliacci greasepaint. For sure, Renesmee is part of a breed of bad-seed toddler vampires. “A single tantrum could destroy an entire village!” Sheen explains, though that really only means he’s never been to Park Slope on a Saturday.

The battle that ensues between the vampire-wolfgang and the overdressed Volturi (they swoop into the Pacific Northwest from Europe in “Phantom of the Opera”-style black cloaks) is rough-and-tumble in a cheap, highly CGI-enhanced way, with ripped-off heads flying hither and thither. It’s also something of a cheat, but explaining that in detail would risk revealing too much of the ending. Needless to say, the picture is also packed with inane, clumsy dialogue, though if the visuals measured up, that wouldn’t be such a liability: This has always been a story best told with faces, not words.

But at this point, Pattinson and Stewart just look exhausted, ready to shed these characters forever. “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” includes some flashbacks culled from the first, and perhaps best, entry in the series, Catherine Hardwicke’s 2008 “Twilight,” which made no apology for its iPod-shuffle brand of romantic floridness – it was touchingly irony-free.

In those flashbacks, it’s astonishing to see how young and unjaded Pattinson and Stewart looked. At that point, they were still giving the series their all; now, perhaps partly because of the battering their personal lives have taken as the result of their own on-again, off-again real-life romantic adventure, they just look zonked. It’s time, at last, for Bella and Edward to retire to the bedroom, where they can get it on, tirelessly, for the rest of eternity, unhindered by fans’ expectations and the sordidness of box office figures. What happens there is their own business. May they finally suck in peace.

Grade: C-


Categories: Reviews

Tags: Bill Condon, Kristen stewart, Robert pattinson, Stephenie meyer, The twilight saga, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2