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Twilight

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Imagine a mediocre episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" without the self-awareness and humor. Now imagine a leading lady who, instead of being cute, is only middling-attractive, and her vampire lover who is hunky in an androgynous, Tiger Beat way. Add a plot of the kind Jane Austen satirized 200 years ago in "Northanger Abbey," but adapted as a here-today-gone-tomorrow adolescent vampire romance novel series by Stephenie Meyer, and the result is "Twilight," a killer movie "¦ "killer" in the sense of killing two hours by slow torture.

High school junior Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, "Jumper," "Into the Wild") has moved to a small town in rainy Washington to live with her dad, police chief Charlie Swan (Billy Burke, "Untraceable," "Fracture") because her mom has gone to minor-league baseball camp with her new stepdad. Are you laughing yet?

At her new school, the guys start falling for her immediately. Why? She's not that pretty, she's not clever, she's not funny, she's not a kitten. They are attracted to her because it's necessary to the plot that we know she's got "It." Her biology lab partner is Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"), who is pale and standoffish. He appears to not like her smell (or maybe it's just her acting) and ditches school for a couple of days just to avoid her.

SMELL BUSINESS
Ah, but the truth is that she smells simply delicious and he fears that he will go all Dracula on her. This smell business has got to be the most risible meet-cute in the history of romantic movies. I can see guys in schools all across America going up to girls and sniffing them while their buddies stand off to the side and chortle. Chortling is like giggling, only for males.

Soon "? and this will amaze you "? they fall in love and Edward takes Bella home to meet his adopted parents and step-siblings, vampires all. This getting-to-know-you segment is the only part of the film that evinces the least sense of humor, and I do mean "the least." Bella learns that the family is vegetarian "? that is, they get their blood from animals only. Sister Rosalie (Nikki Reed, "Thirteen," "Lords of Dogtown") is wholly unwelcoming and might well become the source of trouble in the sequels that are surely in the pot even as I type.

Clan Cullen invites Bella to umpire a baseball game "? the unintentional laughs just keep on coming "? but they are interrupted by a wandering trio of vampires who feed the old fashioned way: by necking with humans. One of them refers to Bella as "a snack" and some action unexpectedly breaks out.

With a script by Melissa Rosenberg ("Step Up," TV's "Dexter") which I have been assured sticks close to the source novel, director Catherine Hardwicke ("The Nativity Story," "Lords of Dogtown") perhaps does as well by this borderline dada material as any C-list director could do. If that's your idea of a good time.

Ah, the children of the night. What ludicrous music they make.

"?Doug Bentin

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