- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

The first “Twilight” movie was better than it had any right to be, given its meager plot and cardboard-cutout characters. Though the film was replete with altogether too many scenes of leads Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) staring longingly into each other’s eyes, director Catherine Hardwicke managed to craft an interesting world for the two to inhabit.

That surrounding world simply doesn’t exist in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” Instead, for large stretches of “New Moon,” we’re left alone with an entirely uninteresting protagonist (Bella) who has to grapple with the fact that her love has flown the coop.

Afraid that Bella eventually will become food for his vampire chums — and refusing to turn her into one of the undead — her bloodsucking boyfriend, Edward, tells the Cullen clan to pack up and hit the road: He won’t put her in danger any longer.

Being a teenager and in love, Bella doesn’t take the news well. She sinks into a deep depression, finally snapping out of it a little when she takes an interest in the buff American Indian next door, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Jake is dumbstruck and in love, while Bella’s just using him for some attention; she’s still stuck on Edward.

It’s a good thing she ran into Jacob, though, because he and his werewolf buddies are the only thing keeping an angry vampire with a score to settle from ripping her throat out.

The plot for “New Moon” is paper-thin. The tension that should have come from Victoria’s (Rachelle Lefevre) pursuit of Bella is relegated to a 10-minute blip in the middle of the film and offers little in the way of a conclusion.

Instead, “New Moon” consists largely of Bella being sad, then Bella being a little happier, then Bella being sad again, then Bella being happy one last time after a trip to Europe to reunite with her loved one. There’s little in the way of forward momentum until the final 30 minutes; stretching out this picture to longer than two hours was indefensible.

It’s not surprising that “Twilight” resonates with so many screaming tweens. It’s the story of a relatively plain-looking girl who somehow captivates two attractive guys even though she has little in the way of personality and spends most of her time moping around the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

But take away the film’s squeal-inducing moments — there were more than a few at D.C.’s Uptown Theatre, especially when Mr. Lautner removed his shirt — and it’s unclear what, exactly, its appeal is. The second lead, Edward, spends most of the film off-screen; Bella is a total Debbie Downer; and, with the exception of Jacob, the other characters are virtually invisible.

The one interesting moment comes during the aforementioned European jaunt, when Bella and Edward come before an ancient order of vampires who seem to run the show. Led by Aro (Michael Sheen), the Volturi (as the triumvirate of elders are known) provide the only real spark in “New Moon.” More of them in the next film, please.

★★
TITLE: “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”
RATING: PG-13 (some violence and action)
CREDITS: Directed by Chris Weitz, written by Melissa Rosenberg
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
WEB SITE: https://www.newmoonthemovie.com/
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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