Abs vs. Eyebrows

'New Moon' is better than the first 'Twilight' film, but it's still too sullen

Somebody needs to buy Kristen Stewart an ice cream cone with sprinkles to cheer her somber ass up. The young actress, who has turned in good work elsewhere, is killing the Twilight movies with her sullen, hyperventilating lovesick routine.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon is much better than its predecessor, Twilight: Suck Ass!, but it isn't good enough to call ... well, good. Much of the blame rests on the supple shoulders of Stewart. Yes, I know the part calls for her to be miserable at times, but she seems downright resentful throughout the entire film, even during the 5 or 10 minutes her character, the ever-downtrodden Bella Swan, is supposed to be moderately happy.

How does this film count as an improvement over the shit pile that was the first one? For starters, Edward Cullen (the lamest vampire ever), played by Robert Pattinson, spends much of the film's running time off-screen. His character breaks up early on with Bella to protect her, and journeys off somewhere to pout. Yes, rather than hang around and protect her with his super vampire powers, he's got to go off and be all emo-sad. That's protection with a capital P!

I consider this plot development a blessing, because Pattinson's "I love you, but I still want to suck your blood ... bleh, bleh!" routine got tired in the first 15 minutes of the original film. In the little time that he's around in this one, he's in mega-sulk mode, and the pale-face makeup and hairdo make him look like some sort of anemic hipster clown.

As Jacob Black, the buff werewolf guy, Taylor Lautner steps up his role a few notches with a new haircut and a fabulous workout system (or, as Bella jokes upon his first appearance, anabolic steroids). Lautner, while nothing to scream about as an actor, has a sweet screen presence, and he handles some of the emotional stuff much better than his cohorts. When Bella finds herself essentially in a love triangle with Dracula and the Wolf Man, it's quite shocking to see who she picks.

I'll say it: Lautner is far dreamier, and his abs alone should've scored Jacob the boyfriend gig. He also manages to smile every once in a while.

Apparently, Bella's into effed-up eyebrows over abs. I know this sounds shallow, but come on ... HAVE YOU SEEN TAYLOR LAUTNER'S ABS?! They're like the exaggerated abs on a Batman suit, except he's not wearing a Batman suit!

The marauding pack of wolfboys that Jacob runs with is actually quite funny. They spend their time traipsing around the woods wearing cut-off shorts and pushing each other off of cliffs (although they do pause for the occasional muffin). When they transform into werewolves, they are actually pretty, almost friendly looking dogs. I would be comfortable playing fetch or jogging with one of the Twilight werewolves. They do not invoke fear in any way, unless you have a fear of cartoonish CGI. Don't laugh; it's a feasible phobia for those of us who are, say, employed in the graphic arts.

I actually found myself liking this nonsense during the middle part, as Bella rebuilds motorcycles with Jacob, and things are relatively chill. Then Edward reappears to poop on the fabulous ab party by threatening to commit suicide when he thinks Bella is dead.

Director Chris Weitz drops all sorts of Romeo and Juliet references (in case you don't see the suicide parallel)—subtle references, like Bella reading a copy of Romeo and Juliet, or Bella watching the movie Romeo and Juliet in class. I think it was somewhere around the 10th or 11th reference when I finally got the idea. I'm slow sometimes, or maybe I was just being lulled into a stupor by the energy-sucking vortex that is the Stewart-Pattinson combo.

In the end, this series isn't really about sexy vampires and werewolves at all. It's about a teenager with serious codependency issues who can't be left alone for a goddamn minute. As soon as Edward scrams, Bella is clinging to Jacob. When Edward comes back, Jacob is left behind, yet Bella still loves him and needs him. When both are away, she sits in a chair and mopes. Seriously: There's a scene in which Bella watches the seasons pass through a picture window as she sits in a half-comatose state.

One must also ask: What the heck is going on with Stewart's hysterical love spasms? Many of us have experienced that burning, painful, yearning love that affects us physically, but Stewart plays it like she has dysentery.

Michael Sheen shows up near the end as an ancient vampire king of some sort, and you'll find yourself wishing the whole movie were about him, because he's cool. Dakota Fanning also shows up near the end as a vampire, and you'll find yourself thankful that whole movie isn't about her, because she's creepy in a way that doesn't improve the movie. (Fanning and Stewart are starring alongside each other in the upcoming The Runaways, about the legendary teenage band. God help us if they can't perk up for that one.)

No doubt: Twilight films are going to be coming at us for a while. We need a campaign to make Stewart happier; everybody needs to send her love on Facebook or cookies to her house. While you are at it, send her some glasses, too, because Taylor is way dreamier than Robert.

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