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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson get lost in each other's eyes in New Moon, a movie I frankly don't get.
Last year, I gave the movie Twilight a middling, two-and-a-half star review. I thought it was a very mediocre version of a very mediocre book, albeit one with obvious appeal for a certain demographic. Nevertheless, there were certain things I liked about it – enough, in fact, that I had a strange fondness for the damn thing. Specifically, I dug the visual style director Catherine Hardwicke brought, (Forks, Washington was practically a character unto itself) and the use of music was fantastic. So now comes the sequel, New Moon, which similarly has great music, but also a new director (Chris Weitz) who doesn’t have nearly the visual sense that Hardwicke did. Obviously, I’m not in the target audience for this saga, so I’d have been content simply with a moviegoing experience similar to the one I had with Twilight. Unfortunately, this new flick didn’t even deliver on that level. I know the many die-hard Twilight fans probably won’t care about the gripes of any adult male film critic, but my job is to be honest: New Moon isn’t very good.

Part two begins when Bella (Kristen Stewart), cuts her finger during a party at the home of her vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson). The sight/smell of blood is enough to drive Edward’s brother Jasper insane, so much so that he tries to eat the lovely Bella. In response, Edward tells her that he and his family are permanently leaving, for her own good. He loves her so much that he just cannot bear to put her in any sort of danger. (Sigh, went the millions of young girls in the crowd simultaneously.) The heartbroken Bella mopes around for months on end before striking up a romance with longtime friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) who, incidentally, is a werewolf. So let me get this straight – Bella falls for one guy who’s a vampire, then another who’s a werewolf? This chick has the worst dating luck of anyone I know. Does she fall for a mummy in the third installment?

This is the point where Jerry Seinfeld would have said “yadda yadda yadda.” Bella eventually tracks Edward down to Italy, where he’s about to turn himself in to a powerful vampire sect known as the Volturi, who may kill him once and for all. Jacob is not okay with her coming to Edward’s rescue. Thus, the romantic triangle between the girl, the vampire, and the werewolf comes to a head.

Watching New Moon is like being trapped in a room for two hours with a moody teenage girl who won’t stop whining about how her boyfriend dumped her. Big chunks of the movie are devoted to just that: whining. While it was no masterpiece, Twilight at least had the advantage of natural interest on its side. Stuff was happening. We watched as Bella met Edward, found out he was a vampire, met his family, learned the rules, et cetera, et cetera. Plus, there was vampire baseball (a goofy scene that became fun in spite of itself because of the music and the visual style). New Moon, in contrast, is essentially a mope-fest, with Bella kind of falling for Jacob but kind of not because she’s still kind of deeply in love with Edward even though he kind of abandoned her. Honestly, I found myself growing bored by it all. Why couldn’t Jacob and the other werewolves have played some pick-up basketball or something?

Oh yeah, the werewolves. Man, are they ever cheesy looking. CGI is incredible these days, so why do all the wolves in this movie look fake? Werewolves are generally not as interesting as vampires anyway. A girl falling in love with a bloodsucker has lots of dilemmas to face, and Bella faced them all in Twilight. Will he love me when I’m old and he still looks youthful? Should I let the vampire “turn” me so that I can live forever too? What happens to me if I do become one of them? On the other hand, when dating a werewolf, the biggest problem one would presumably have to face is dealing with shedding hair on the couch and rugs.

I’m perhaps not being totally fair. One thing that I did like about New Moon was Taylor Lautner. Unlike Stewart and Pattinson, he actually appears to be enjoying himself in this movie. He also gives a much more viable and sincere performance than the overly-mannered Pattinson does. (Does this mean that I’m de facto Team Jacob?) One of my problems with both pictures is that the two leads are so incessantly dour – a fact that is even more noticeable here. Lautner at least has some zip to his performance, as do Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, who show up late in the game as members of the Volturi.

I have just stopped to re-read what I’ve written thus far. Much of this review, I see, has been dedicated to snark rather than genuine critique. That’s because I don’t really know what to say. The hardcore fans are going to see this and, probably, love it, no matter what. And that’s fine. Few others will bother to begin with. So let me wrap this thing up. New Moon never reaches the level of being truly bad, but there’s just nothing unique or special about it, nor (songs aside) is there anything to mitigate the inherent whininess of the tone. The ending sets up some things that show promise to make the third installment a little more compelling. I hope Eclipse (which opens in June 2010) follows through, because in this go-round, Bella Swann is a pain in the ass who needs to pick a monster to love and quit all her pouting. Unless you already care intensely about her and her bizarre romantic life, New Moon is likely to annoy and/or sedate you.

( out of four)

New Moon is rated PG-13 for some violence and action. The running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes.

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