Where would Hollywood be without that old standby, the vampire-werewolf-schoolgirl love triangle?
As every Stephenie Meyer fan knows, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” is the one where studly vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) dumps his human girlfriend, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), for her own safety, and she turns to old chum Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) for solace, unaware that he’s a werewolf, and therefore Edward’s sworn enemy from way back.
What fans are about to find out is that critics, present company included, don’t care much for this adaptation of the second in Meyer’s “Twilight” series. And those fans won’t give a fig what these critics have to say about their beloved Bella and her beastie boy toys.
They will turn out in blockbuster legions, teen girls in roving packs descending on theaters, along with ladies-night-out groups of friends and co-workers, and daughters with their moms (and plenty of grandmothers, no doubt).
With Chris Weitz (“American Pie,” ”About a Boy,” ”The Golden Compass”) taking over as director, the second movie has exactly what those fans want: Big, bouncy boy hair. Sculpted torsos everywhere. Teasing caresses of fingers on fingers, lips on lips. Love so deep and frenzied the smitten would prefer to die than go on without the other. Torsos, did we mention torsos?
Most important, not just one, but two supernatural hunks snarling over the quivering carcass of a breathless, doe-eyed young woman.
Swoon factor times two.
For anyone who has not sworn the blood oath of undying allegiance to all things “Twilight,” here’s a few issues with “New Moon”: It’s really two half moons, or two halves of a movie that don’t quite fit. Mopey teen Bella has all the luster of, well, a mopey teenager. The real rivalry between the werewolves and vampires is to see which species can behave with greater preposterousness and pretension.
Finally, “New Moon” is boring, eternally so.
“Twilight” screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg returned to adapt the script, and “New Moon” shares its predecessor’s brooding, diary-of-a-mad-girl tone.
Bella starts senior year in the worst way as Edward and his adopted family of sensitive new-age vampires pack up and move away.
Fans will rue the relatively scarce screen time for Pattinson, whose Edward still adores Bella but decides he has to break things off so he doesn’t complicate their relationship by giving her a fatal hickey.
Months of pining and bad dreams eventually are eased for Bella as she starts hanging out with Jacob, who misses no opportunity to show off his Olympian pecs and abs.
Bella’s timing stinks, though, because Jacob’s just entering wolfman puberty. Suddenly, he’s running with a pack of werewolf brethren in his Native American tribe, and he pushes Bella away just as Edward did — for her own protection.
What’s a girl to do? Mope some more.
Old vampire enemies are still preying on Bella, though, giving Jacob and his boys some bloodsuckers to fight. The visual effects of the guys transforming into wolves are disappointing, over in a flash; “An American Werewolf in London” did a much neater job of it almost 30 years ago.
Then “New Moon” veers back to the Cullens as Bella races to Italy to save Edward, who’s become a world-class moper himself.
There, they engage in a showdown with the Volturi, who are sort of the A-listers of the vampire world and as full of themselves as any spoiled Hollywood star.
Chief among them is Aro (Michael Sheen, a werewolf in the “Underworld” franchise, so he swings both ways), whose smarmy little smile and prim bearing sap the menace he’s supposed to convey. Dakota Fanning, in a departure from her goodie-goodie persona, has a fleeting role as a Volturi bad girl.
As Edward’s soothsaying vampire sister Alice, Ashley Greene provides more snap with a few choice lines than the leading players manage in the entire movie. The rest of the Cullen clan, including Peter Facinelli as patriarch Carlisle, are bit players this time, as are Bella’s circle of human friends, though Anna Kendrick has some lively moments as school mate Jessica.
Billy Burke also is back as Bella’s police-chief dad, though you have to worry about the townsfolk’s safety, given all the scrapes his own daughter gets into under his watch.
The soap-opera melodrama of Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner’s performances provides some unintentional laughs that lighten the movie’s relentless gloom.
Yet Stewart is on screen almost all the time, and her Bella is just a drag to be around. With her flat speech and listless presence, it’s unfathomable how two different sets of monsters could fixate so completely on her.
All three lovers are so joyless, it’s hard to imagine why any of them would want to spend eternity together.
They’re here for two more movies, though. And that sounds like a real eternity.
“The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” a Summit Entertainment release, is rated PG-13 for some violence and action. Running time: 130 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:
G — General audiences. All ages admitted.
PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.
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David Germain/The Associated Press