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marcus-cauis-alecI’m no sixteen year old girl. Never have been, never will be, which makes me unqualified to judge the appeal of the “Twilight” books and movies. These vampire love stories have hit a nerve with a certain demographic, made superstars out of its actors, the King and Queen of Mumbly Teen Angst, Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart and made everyone connected with the series rich, but I don’t really get it. I’m no sixteen year old female, but neither is director Chris Weitz who I’m not sure really gets it either. He’s taken a surefire hit and turned it into a plodding, dull movie that keeps the leading man hidden for half the film.

The story picks up where the original left off. Bella (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) are happily enjoying a dead-undead romance, exchanging long stares and even the occasional kiss. When a paper cut and a drop of blood ruins Bella’s 18th birthday Edward realizes there is no place for a human in his world and breaks off their relationship before hightailing it to points unknown. In his absence Bella becomes an emotional wreck (nobody does tormented teen like Kristen Stewart). There are bad breakups—the kind where you mope and eat ice cream for breakfast—then there is the titanic meltdown that happens after Bella gets dumped by the bloodsucker.

Enter Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s old friend and possible new love interest. By the time someone says to her, “you’re OK with weird,” the going truly has become bizarre. Jacob turns out to be a member of the mysterious Quileute tribe who carry a werewolf gene. As everybody knows, werewolves and vampires don’t get along, placing Bella in the awkward position of not only being involved in a vampire-werewolf-human love triangle, but also having the two men in her life be sworn enemies.

“New Moon” is bound to make a fortune, but it isn’t an improvement on the first picture. It’s slightly more stylish than the original and there are a few more light moments but the story is all melodrama and no real drama. The characters, which original director Catherine Hardwicke treated as real people, giving them heart and soul (of course vampires don’t have heart or soul but you get the idea), here are simple stereotypes.

In Weitz’s world Bella and Edward are reduced to lovesick ennui twins, moping endlessly and mumbling their lines. There are attempts to create a feeling of romance—Edward even recites a passage from “Romeo and Juliet” from memory—but what felt like a sweeping, all consuming love in the first film feels more like an overblown teenage crush in the new film.

Unlike the television series “True Blood,” which manages to find a balance between the love story, the vampire action while throwing in a bit of social commentary, “New Moon” is content to present underdeveloped ideas about identity, racism and gay rights. All these concepts are buried in the script and if they weren’t pumping these “Twilight” movies out faster than AIG wastes its bailout money the screenwriters might be able to develop some of these ideas beyond simply paying lip service to them with an anguished monologue by a jittery teen.

But what do I know? The audience I saw the film with cooed during all the right moments, laughed when Edward’s brother suggested it would be a good idea for Bella to become a vampire so he wouldn’t want to “kill her all the time” and gasped at the bombshell ending. “New Moon” will please the fans of the books and movies, but may leave non fang bangers cold.

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