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Tasting forbidden fruit
'Twilight' adaptation appears toothless on screen

"Twilight" (PG-13)

1 star out of 4

This should be made immediately clear. The crowd at the packed Tuesday evening "Twilight" preview screening was composed almost exclusively of mid-to-late teenage girls who reacted to the event as if were a rock concert or Barack Obama's acceptance speech.

During the 30-minute build-up, chants of "Twilight, Twilight" rippled through the seats and when the lights finally went down, ear-piercing shrieks of hysterical approval filled the air. Throughout the show, the audience laughed and cheered and when it was finally over, there was a collective standing ovation. The studio and filmmakers can breathe a huge sigh of relief; their target audience LOVED this movie.

But what if you're not a teen girl and have never heard of writer Stephenie Meyer's series of "Twilight" novels?

Based purely on its merits as a movie and not a cult phenomenon, "Twilight" is a major bust. As a vampire flick, it is a toothless bore. You'll find more suspense and dramatic tension in an episode of the '70s camp vamp soap opera "Dark Shadows," and the acting is a joke. To be fair to the performers, they were doomed from the start thanks to a screenplay riddled with plot gaps and unintentional humor.

Adapted by Melissa Rosenberg ("Dexter," "The O.C."), the story plays out like an ultra-slick, largely vacant Warner Bros. melodrama. Director Catherine Hardwicke is sure to include extended, dialogue-free long shots of the misty American Northwest that could easily double as fashion or fragrance commercials. If Abercrombie & Fitch ever decides to start a Goth product line, Hardwicke's name should be at the top of their production/creative design short list.

The sole sliver of interest in Meyer's shallow tale is the setting. The perpetual rain of Washington state allows these particular vampires the ability to mix with humans during daylight hours. If the sun does happen to come out, they don't burst into flames like other vampires, but rather develop a sparkly, glittering sheen on their skin. In Meyer's universe, the ultimate sin would be to include an ugly or flammable vampire.

Current heartthrob Robert Pattinson stars as Edward, the perpetual 17-year-old who can read everyone's mind except that of Bella (Kristen Stewart), a recent Arizona transplant living with her aloof sheriff father. The non-human-eating Edward's demeanor toward Bella shifts from rude and surly to mildly charming and gives new meaning to the term "mood swing." This, combined with his weed-whacker haircut and pretty-boy pout make him completely irresistible to introvert/outsider Bella.

Despite a tractor-trailer's worth of clues, it takes the otherwise sharp Bella close to an hour's worth of screen time to figure out that Edward is a vampire. After mere moments of self-deliberation, she decides this undead guy is far better than any available mortal and the star-crossed lover angle kicks in.

As with last week's wholly superior "Let the Right One In," "Twilight" is practically devoid of blood and gore and, save for a single scene toward the end, is absent of any notable violence. Brad Pitt wanna-be Cam Gigandet appears as Edward's evil foil James, a rogue vampire who becomes obsessed with Bella and provides the movie with its lone interesting character.

Get used to hearing about all things "Twilight." There are three sequels already in the works. The budding franchise is capable of achieving gargantuan box-office numbers, and as long as there are starry-eyed girls with money in their wallets, "Twilight" will remain a solid cash-cow. (Summit Entertainment)