Who's In It:
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dakota Fanning
The Basics: At this point you're on board or you're not and the movie assumes that you are. It doesn't help you out by providing many "previously on Twilight" details to let the uninitiated know why they're supposed to be invested in whether or not the somewhat tabula rasa-like young Bella should be into the petulant, snarling Edward and Jacob for reasons besides their good looks. The plot involves someone building a vampire army of superstrong "newborns" to destroy Bella and Edward but she's under the protection Edward's vampire family, the Cullens. Then Jacob calls a truce between the werewolves and the Cullens so his pack of fellow gigantic CGI dogs can chew on some vampire heads. Jacob does this by walking around shirtless and hypnotizing people into obedience with his nipples.
What's The Deal: Bored. Still bored. Unless the sight of Stewart kissing Pattinson (and, later, Lautner) is enough to send you into convulsions of joy, there aren't any thrills or surprises in this movie. It mopes along, seemingly terrified of crossing the fans by accomplishing anything more than a slavish re-enactment of the book's plot. And while the first film, at least, provided a a fun glimpse into the mania surrounding the franchise--I remember distinctly the near-pandemonium of that advance screening--the squealing fans have quieted down into a satisfied silence of entitlement. The rest of you can go see something--anything--else because you're not really invited to this party anymore.
Jen Promised Me Fighting: And there was some. Just not enough. The rush to get these films into theaters results in some seriously fakey-looking wolves, so it's hard to really get into it when you see them chomping off the stone-like heads of vampires. Meanwhile, the young blood-seekers don't inspire fear either. They look like not much more than a crew of pissed off models who learn that their day rate has been cut in the middle of the Hollister shoot.
The Parts I Liked: Watching Dakota Fanning give what might be her first seriously bad performance (and I saw Hound Dog), the occasional funny barbs tossed back and forth between Jacob and Edward even though neither has the swagger to really turn those words into verbal fists, the freaky retro discussion about Bella's "virtue" as the reason why Edward won't have sex with her before marriage, the Civil War flashbacks, the insistence on nothing but giant closeups anytime anyone speaks and, best of all, the "newborn" vampires going on a feeding frenzy, complete with overturned cars on fire for mood lighting and their leader shouting, "I TOLD YOU: LOW PROFILE!"
Why You Might Consider Seeing It Anyway: Because its foundation is similar to stuff like Pretty in Pink--outsider girl is courted by two guys who are both sort of wrong for her--and a million other movies about young people in which the entire world and its proceedings revolves around them and their particular feelings about some universal adolescent rite of passage. As modern cinema of teen narcissism, it's right on point.