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MOVIE REVIEW: 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2' the best installment of franchise

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN -- PART 2

(PG-13)

2 stars out of 4

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The Associated Press Kristen Stewart, left, and Robert Pattinson star in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2."

The best thing that can happen with a multi-billion dollar-generating franchise is to end on a high note; to save its best installment for last. That is what has taken place with "Twilight" but is being the least bad movie in a series of horrible ones something to celebrate or admire? If you're a fan, yes. If you're not a fan, yes as well, but with a disclaimer. For non-believers the joy is the knowledge we'll never have to watch another "Twilight" flick again.

After close to 600 minutes worth of soap opera-grade preamble containing some of the most insipid, chaste, timid and inert content imaginable spread out over 4.5 films, the last half of the last act of "Breaking Dawn 2" finally does something that resembles authentic vampire-based horror. "Resembles" is the operative word here because like Lucy and Charlie Brown with their football, what looks like the real thing, isn't. Unless you've already read the books and know the outcome, the ending will come as a surprise, but not the kind of surprise most people would consider favorable.

To be fair to novelist Stephenie Meyer, the premise of the "Breaking Dawn" novel is the best of the lot and more or less has made up for all of the pabulum in the first three books. Instead of just swooning lovers and stiff, inconsequential model-beautiful vampire extras with pale off-blue skin and red eyes that refuse to kill humans, Meyer stuffed "Breaking Dawn" with a rainbow coalition of international blood-suckers that run the racial and geographic gamut. Native Americans, South American amazons, Russians, Irish, Black and Asian vampires are all represented here, united in their determination to stave off a take over by the 3,000 year-old Italian clan, aka the Volturi.

Picking up right where "Part 1" left off, "Part 2" presents heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) just days after nearly dying in childbirth. Looking none the worse for wear, the now undead Bella is a newborn seeing the world for the first time. With heightened senses, a voracious bloodlust and an unquenchable libido, Bella is now the woman she wanted to become in order to be the ideal mate for Edward (Robert Pattinson). Ever the romantic, one of the first things Edward says to Bella upon her transformation is: "now we're the same temperature." What a poet he is. If Edward ever needs to make some extra cash in the future he should consider composing greeting cards.

Edward's reference to body heat in reverse was just the first of many lines of dialogue in the film that resulted in unintended laughter. Even the very vocal die-hard "Twilight" faithful at the packed preview screening giggled incessantly at what was not designed to be funny, but that has been the case for duration of the franchise and one of the only perks for non-fans. In lieu of actual action, authentic passion or danger, we're at least afforded a snickering giggle or two every few minutes.

Another minor plus in "Part 2" is that it is not Bella and Edward that are the center of attention but rather their oddly-named daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). Half-human, half-vampire, Renesmee is the reason the Volturi are frothing at the mouth as she is an unholy spawn, strictly forbidden under vampire law and must be destroyed.

Hearty kudos need to be extended to director Bill Condon and his casting director Debra Zane for selecting Foy. Even though she was 11 at the time of filming, Foy was short enough to play a toddler yet blessed with facial features that make her look like the rapidly maturing woman-child imagined by Meyer. Wisely not given too many lines by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, Foy appoints herself well and this film should provide her with an advantage in snaring future roles.

Far from art, the "Twilight" franchise -- however lightweight in content and pedestrian in its aspirations -- filled a void and gave its target audience exactly what they wanted: faithful adaptations of books they loved. However, unlike two other relatively recent franchises based on fantasy novels -- "Harry Potter" and "The Lord of the Rings" -- "Twilight" enjoyed little to no crossover or appealing to those who weren't already firmly entrenched in its camp. It served its purpose and -- for better or worse -- is now a thing of the past. (Summit Entertainment)