(out of 5)
Alice Englert shows up in a tiny South Carolina town and, as if being the new girl isn’t hard enough, has to face the legacy of her family, magically powered citizens who are thought Satanists by everyone else around them. Falling in love with her kindness and mystery, charming mortal Alden Ehrenreich isn’t put off by Englert even when he finds out her secrets, but she worries that she cannot maintain their relationship when she discovers that breaking a curse put upon her family from centuries earlier makes having a love life nearly impossible. Emma Thompson has a delightful appearance as an overly meddlesome townswoman with a few secret connections to the story, and Viola Davis is typically reliable as the housekeeper and secret witch librarian (?) who provides backup for our plucky heroine, while no expense has been spared on appealing visual details of photography and design. What it has going against it is so monumentally problematic, however, that none of these pluses can carry you very far, for while Ehrenreich’s endless charm provides much of the film’s energy, his lack of chemistry with Englert and the often cheap-looking visual effects make for bland viewing. The story is a messy collection of young adult clichés that is so intent on making its target audience feel good about themselves that it seems to actually forget to create a coherent or engaging story. The accents are mostly insulting approximations of southern-ness that even Mama’s Family could outdo, the majority of the adult cast are phoning it in (and I can’t blame them in the slightest given what they are working with) and it builds to a confusing and illogical climax.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese
Cinematography by Philippe Rousselot
Music by Thenewno2
Production Design by Richard Sherman
Costume Design by Jeffrey Kurland
Film Editing by David Moritz