Entertainment

‘Breaking Dawn’: This one's for you, fangirls | 3 stars

Editor’s note: “Twilight” has always been a girlfriend thing. So in that spirit, two of our resident enthusiasts teamed up to review the new film.

After years of standing up for sparkly vampires, fans have trouble defending Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn.”

The bruising honeymoon sex. The teen pregnancy. The unconventional (to say the least) C-section. And, especially, the new, weird love connection that has sent Taylor Lautner, who plays werewolf Jacob Black, on the talk-show circuit, valiantly trying to explain it all.

So it’s a big relief that Bill Condon’s adaptation works bloody well, drawing the most from the young cast, especially Kristen Stewart. Whether she’s thriving under the new director or has finally found her stride on her own, she sheds her awkward ways and delivers her best Bella yet. She’s believable as a nervous bride, emotion playing across her face as she walks down the aisle. A jittery newlywed on her wedding night, taking time to brush her teeth, shave her legs and find courage. A malnourished expectant mom, wasting away.

As with the last “Harry Potter” book, filmmakers divided the 754-page fourth and final “Twilight” novel into two movies, to be released a year apart.

“Part 1” begins with the long-anticipated wedding. Bella has been begging to become an immortal vampire like boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), but he, ever the traditionalist, will have none of it until he makes an honest woman of her.

The wedding feels honest and real, down to the reception with goofy, heartfelt speeches. (Keep your eyes open for a special guest: Stephenie Meyer.)

Then it’s off to the Cullen family’s private island on the Brazilian coast, where consummation gets a little tricky. And trippy, with a destroyed bed frame and feathers everywhere. It’s straight from the book, and Condon handles it gently, even tastefully.

But then the happy romance hits a speed bump: a baby bump that grows at a startling rate, being the powerful offspring of a supernatural being. Who knew vampire men had it in them?

Edward whisks Bella back to his physician dad, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), to be rid of the monster within. But Bella has far different ideas and enlists Edward’s sister Rosalie (Nikki Reed) as her bodyguard to protect the baby, no matter the cost to Bella’s health, or her life. She’s hoping to carry it to term and then survive the resulting broken bones and internal bleeding by becoming a vampire.

Meanwhile, Jacob’s fellow werewolves learn of the little fiend on the way and foresee trouble for their families. This thirsty “demon” will be out of control, they think. Their solution: Kill Bella and her vampire family.

Now Jacob must choose between his pack and the love of his life, even though she’s Mrs. Cullen now and the old love triangle is completely bent out of shape.

Condon, directing his first “Twilight” film, brings an interesting resume to the proceedings. He’s best known for helming the musical “Dreamgirls,” but he won a screenplay Oscar for “Gods and Monsters,” about the final days of the “Frankenstein” movie director. And he’s a self-proclaimed vampire geek.

It pays off. This is the first “Twilight” film that doesn’t feel like a superficial Lifetime film. Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) takes advantage of the big, lush settings in the Pacific Northwest and Brazilian beaches, but also captures quieter moments just as powerfully.

As Edward, Pattinson seems less starved and tortured, less simpering now that he plays a happily married vamp.

Even the Cullens’ hair got an upgrade, particularly everyone’s favorite quirky couple, Alice and Jasper (Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone).

And Taylor Lautner? Apparently he went to the Keanu Reeves school of acting: stoic but flat. His career might be best served in action movies, not drama. Anything where his abs are the true stars.

But he was Leonardo DiCaprio compared to his pathetic pack of wolves. Team Jacob’s swooning might be brought to a screeching halt when those werewolves start talking. Wolf telepathy works on the printed page, but on the big screen it’s cheesy, like something out of the 1980s’ “The Neverending Story.” Fail.

The film quickly recovers and races toward the captivating, heartbreaking birth scene. Without going into too much detail for the two of you who haven’t read the book, Lautner redeems himself by making Jacob’s strange, newfound love less creepy than it could be, almost sweet.

Condon filmed the two parts of “Breaking Dawn” back-to-back. This first half is a good sign that “Part 2” will close the franchise honorably.

Fangirls, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

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