November 20, 2009 at 8:27 am

Tom Long: Film Review: 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' -- GRADE: C

Review: 'New Moon' is just what 'Twilight' fans want -- unfortunately

New Moon finds a smitten Jacob (Taylor Lautner) trying to comfort Bella (Kristen Stewart) (Summit Entertainment)

A big bowl of adolescent romantic mush garnished with horror-lite action scenes and a rushed road trip, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" is a mess.

But to be fair to director Chris Weitz ("About a Boy") and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg ("Dexter"), it is the mess "Twilight" fans were expecting and probably demanding.

As with the first film, the story closely follows the original book by Stephenie Meyer. And the book was weak, to say the least.

Essentially, the "Twilight" series is built around the love between the 109-year-old forever young vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and 18-year-old Bella (Kristen Stewart).

Unfortunately, "New Moon" takes Cullen out of the equation for most of its length. He's gone somewhere, and way too much of the movie consists of Bella sulking, and then eventually teasing the young hunky werewolf-in-training Jacob (played by Grand Rapids native Taylor Lautner and his abs), who professes his love for her even as she pines for her vampire.

By the way, this is where our fantasy-riddled culture has come -- of course high school girls have to choose between vampires and werewolves for boyfriends. Nothing odd about that.

At base, this is the classic high school story of the girl who just wants to be friends with the guy who has a crush on her, while waiting for the guy who's blown her off. To say it's trite is just a teensy bit of an understatement.

True, Jacob or one of his buddies can burst into being a big bad wolf at the drop of a temper tantrum, so that's a bit different than a pimply kid sulking next to his locker. But not different enough.

The sheer inertia of the film can be astounding. In the beginning, Edward leaves Bella because he realizes his being around puts her in danger. And then you wait through the rest of the film for them to get back together, never once believing she'll hook up with Wolfie.

The movie pretty much just sits there, waiting for its own end to arrive. But then again, so did the book. And the book has sold a gazillion copies, while fans have been lined up to see the movie for days.

Obviously the "Twilight" series taps into our need for romance, but romance dressed in new clothes. The problem is, "New Moon" taps into that need in such a clumsy way.

In the end, Bella rushes off to be reunited with Edward in an exotic Italian locale, where a clan of ancient vampires (headed by Michael Sheen, delicious as always) tries to decide whether to kill the couple.

The film's silliest moment (there is much competition for that distinction) comes as Dakota Fanning, playing a mini-vampire, stares into the camera with red eyes and tries to look frightening. It's like a bad Halloween contest.

But we know nothing will happen to our young and not-so-young lovers. There's money to be made in those yearning eyes. Bella wants to be made a vampire, Edward is reluctant. And there's the whole sex thing to be worked out. Not to mention those freaky vamps back in Italy.

There's nothing wrong with Meyer's essential mythology; there's a lot wrong with what she does with it. But "New Moon" is still probably the film her fans want, and deserve.

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