By Mike Giuliano
11:32 AM EST, November 21, 2011
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes something supernatural in the baby carriage. Just in case you weren't invited to the ceremony, you'll want to know that the vampire Edward and the human Bella get married in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part I." Talk about a mixed marriage!
Many of the young women in the audience vicariously will imagine themselves as bridesmaids at that unusual event. Although this fourth installment isn't likely to win new converts, it definitely knows how to please its target audience.
"Breaking Dawn" doesn't waste any time in pleasing them. Jacob, the hunky werewolf who's the loser in the marital sweepstakes, takes off his shirt at the very beginning of the movie.
That faithful audience has been growing up along with the characters. "Breaking Dawn" is way beyond the first date phase, which means that the emotional and physical aspects of marriage and childbirth are dealt with pretty directly by director Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters" and "Dreamgirls").
The whole vampire-werewolf-human configuration can't entirely shake off its quasi-campy qualities, but there's also no denying that this next-to-last installment in the series has a seriousness that can't be laughed off.
One sign of its maturity is that there are relatively few special effects-reliant battles between vampires and werewolves. Oh, there's a bit of snarling and even a bite or two, but the confrontations are in the service of the more or less human conflicts that make falling in love so complicated.
Another sign of maturity is that Bella is, well, all grown up now. As the beautiful Bella, Kristen Stewart gives a psychologically nuanced performance that conveys just how conflicted Bella feels about entering into this marriage between different species.
Bella bloody well knows that the red rose petals that fall around her in one scene are a surreal metaphoric reinforcement of the dangerously attractive marital union she is entering into — either that or the film's director has watched "American Beauty" once too often.
Although Robert Pattinson tends to strike the same few pensive poses as the handsome Edward, at least these poses make it easy to see why red-blooded young women are smitten by this vampire and might even be willing to be bitten by him.
Within this movie franchise, team Edward is up against team Jacob in terms of audience sympathy. If Edward provides a dreamy take on a potentially nightmarish vampire character, Jacob is no slouch in the seduction department.
The mansion-dwelling Edward's pale, sensitive, intellectual and rather effete manner makes him the Ivy League candidate for Bella's neck, er, hand, while the forest-dwelling Jacob's rough-mannered, less articulate, achingly sincere nature makes him the working-class candidate. Not to mention that Jacob has a lock on the Native American vote.
As Jacob, Taylor Lautner gets to pout a lot about being left out in the woods when Edward and Bela walk down the aisle. Lautner is not much of an actor, but who cares? He mopes with such muscular conviction!
Pregnancy isn't the only bump that Bella must confront early in her marriage. There's also the whole issue of household etiquette, because her vampire house guests have special nutritional requirements.
And there's Jacob, of course. His bitterness may be under control, but other members of his werewolf clan are still itching for a fight with the vampires.
If you're wondering how Bella and Edward will fare in the first year of their marriage, you'll get the answer when Part II is released around a year from now. Grade: B
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn —Part I" (PG-13) is now playing at area theaters.
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