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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart star in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2."
Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart star in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2."

"Breaking Dawn - Part 2": It's exactly what you think it is

It wasn't too long ago that the Mythbusters proved to the world that you can, indeed, polish a turd. So, I don't know why I ever had so many reservations about the cinematic incarnations of the "Twilight" saga.

From its star-studded cast of newcomers and established names to the elaborate cinematography and romantic scenery, the movies have done their utmost to cash in on the sparkle-laden fandemonium. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2" is no exception.

After the lukewarm reception the first half of its finale received (hello, creepy hybrid-creature birthing scenes), "Part 2" has come out swinging. Picking up where "Part 1" left off, the second installment opens with brand-new baby vamp Bella learning the ropes of her new undead lifestyle – an education she luckily learns ridiculously quickly (emphasis on the ridiculous), because it's not long before the Cullens learn that the Volturi (the head honchos and fascist baddies of the vampire world) have been misinformed of Edward and Bella's supernatural offspring, Renesmee.

Now, not only must she contend with a lifetime of that unfortunate name jumble, the child and her family have to confront the faction and set things right to protect Renesmee from execution.

Before the audience can get to the, er, good? parts, however, they have to contend with an impressively infinite credits sequence. It's an excessive list (in fact, stick around afterward – it gets even more elaborate as the end credits rehash every. single. person. who starred in the entire saga). More importantly, it contains a number of legitimate actors in its ranks.

For all the jokes made about Kristen Stewart's inability to emote (do a Google search – I'll wait), the slack made by her lack of prowess is easily picked up by the more proven talents of the ensemble, including Michael Sheen ("Frost/Nixon") as Volturi leader Aro and even Robert Pattinson, who isn't much to look at but has been amassing an impressive resume on his "Twilight" downtime (See "Water for Elephants," "Bel Ami," etc.).

Elizabeth Reaser ("The Good Wife"), Dakota Fanning ("Man on Fire"), Jamie Campbell Bower ("Sweeney Todd"), Rami Malek ("Night at the Museum," "The Master") and Lee Pace ("Lincoln") also lead a cadre of background performances that help add legitimacy to a movie planted solely in the wheelhouse of shrieking adolescents.

Couple all that onscreen firepower with the cinematic aesthetic of Guillermo Navarro (a favorite of Guillermo Del Toro known for "Pan's Labyrinth" and others) and a sleek emo soundtrack and you almost have a promising movie on your hands. Almost.

Whatever good lies in "Part 2," it's no match for the oppressively juvenile fountain it draws from. All of those aforementioned bright spots are smothered – often violently – by the base schlock taken from Stephenie Meyer's source material. Dredging so much as a readable screenplay out of its ocean of mediocrity would be practically award-worthy were it not for the fact that giving the "Twilight" saga notable credit for anything would send generations of dead cinema legends spinning in their graves.

Even for all of its effort, though, there's no escaping the trite dialogue and elementary premise. These downfalls reappear time and again as reminders to anyone not lost in their own heads that the impetus for this big-budget powerhouse is that infamous literary collection of fan-driven dreck.

Despite its many fundamental failings, the result of said dreck is remarkably well-packaged. Its slick shots and scenic settings are pretty, but "Part 2," like its predecessors, is all sparkle and no substance. It's a childish tale elevated to astronomical proportions by hordes of fangirls (and fan-women – ew) seeking out the guiltiest of guilty pleasures with all the voracity of a crack fiend. I'm sure they'll be placated by this latest hit – as it's sure to be one – and that's all that matters ... unfortunately.

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