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Twilight, a Lautner-sized letdown

An hour before I was able to muster the strength to catch a late showing of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1," I called my friend to tell him how I planned to spend my night.

I'm not sure why I chose to tell him this. I knew his response would be cold ridicule. But I needed to confess to someone. I had to get it off my chest.

"Honestly, I would be surprised if you lasted the whole movie," he said. "And if you do, you should be ashamed."

I told him that I wanted to jump into the "Twilight" saga feet-first, without a safety net, and report back in my column. My reader seems to enjoy hearing stories in which I suffer, I said.

We schemed ways to mitigate the pain. My friend suggested buying a ticket to see a movie I was actually interested in and ducking out periodically to catch two or three minutes of "Twilight."

"It's all you're really gonna need to see anyway," he said.

I was, so to speak, "all in" when it came to the latest "Twilight" movie.

I came to "Twilight" as a blank slate. I haven't seen any of the previous films nor had I read a single page of the books.

My theory was this didn't really matter. I had absorbed enough of the story through the zeitgeist that it wouldn't take me long to catch up.

Girl falls in love with hotty vampire. Hotty werewolf resents vampire for bogarting all the action and gets angry. Vampire and werewolf fight over girl.

Simple enough? If only.

Overall first impressions: "Twilight" is impossibly complicated and not in the way a Faulker novel or, hell, even a Final Fantasy video game is complicated, but in a beseeching, annoying way that started to make my head hurt within the first five minutes.

It's not just vampires versus werewolves. Apparently, the werewolves are actually shape-shifting cultists who made some pact eons ago to change only into werewolves. Why does this have to be complicated?

HBO's "True Blood" utilizes many of the same supernatural tropes as "Twilight" but to far greater effect. And don't get me wrong, "True Blood" is not genius stuff by any means.

But unlike "Twilight," the HBO vamp series uses humor to carry its heavy-handed message.

"Twilight" is absolutely humorless. (OK, that's not completely true. I laughed on a few occasions at some of the stilted dialogue and cheesy set pieces.) How can a series of films that have grossed roughly $1 billion look like it was shot as a made-for-cable cheap-o, the likes of which used to run on the Sci-Fi Channel back in the '90s?

Part of the problem lies in its three-headed monster of a cast. It's amazing that "Twilight" managed to find the three most bland, most vacuous young actors in Hollywood and put them in the same movie.

What are the chances? It has to be less than the Southern Oregon University basketball team winning the NCAA championship this year.

Kristen Stewart, who plays the heroine Bella, mumbled through her scenes and often looked as if she had to wash down Percocet with gin to make the set experience tolerable.

Hotty Robert Pattinson, the vampire Edward Cullen, made a go of it here and there but ultimately looked trapped by the material. You can see it in his eyes. He wants to get this behind him as soon as possible so he can remake himself into the next Johnny Depp or Ryan Gosling. Not going to happen.

Pattinson seems likeable enough, but, man, is he a terrible actor. Instead of dominating his scenes, he finds ways to get smaller, allowing himself to be pushed aside in every frame by his werewolf enemy, played by boytoy Taylor Lautner.

Lautner, of everyone, seemed to be giving it his all. He might have a little something buried beneath his 250 pounds of muscle and eyebrows, but it hasn't surfaced yet.

In the end, I found "Twilight" to be crushingly boring and tedious. Even the sex scene, during which Cullen literally destroys his marriage bed in a burst of sexual savagery, was stilted and laughable.

As I walked out of the theater, I overheard a pack of young-ish girls giggling at what they'd witnessed.

Too much of the writing about "Twilight" describes it as a patriarchal fantasy in which women are kept in their place by masculine sexuality and that their young lives are inherently meaningless without boyfriends.

There's some weight to this critique, but I think it's giving "Twilight" too much credit to assume it will have a large impact on the culture.

I'm going to give young female readers and viewers the benefit of the doubt on this one. They know the world "Twilight" explores is patently ridiculous, and that Edward Cullen is bad news and they are smarter than Bella on so many levels.