Nov. 17, 2011 at 11:51 AM ET
Countdown to Taylor Lautner shirtlessness in "Breaking Dawn Part 1": Less than 10 seconds.
Say what you will about the "Twilight" films, but never say that the filmmakers do not give fans exactly what they want. These films are not really movies that can be rated as a cinematic experience or judged in the same way you would look at "Citizen Kane." They're awesomely ludicrous fantasy from start to finish, and to argue about whether Bella sets a good example for young women or whether a vampire could really get a human woman pregnant is both irrelevant and yet part and parcel of the whole experience. You buy your ticket, you sit back and strap in. Even those who adore the characters and take the romance seriously have to laugh their way through the ride. Where else are you going to get a chance to see C-section by fang?
As will be no spoiler to anyone who is planning to attend a showing, "Breaking Dawn" carries the characters through Bella and Edward's wedding, PG-13 but still headboard-busting, pillow-piercing honeymoon, her surprise pregnancy and the death-defying delivery of baby Renesmee. It's the least action-packed (only one fight scene) and the most personal of the "Twilight" films, focusing not on the Cullen coven and Jacob's wolfpack protecting Bella from their supernatural world, but on the couple finally joining in marriage and trying to save Bella from the baby inside her.
It's also the funniest of the films. "Twilight" isn't known for humor, but since there's more interaction between characters who know each other well, the humor comes out. Billy Burke gets the best lines as Bella's taciturn cop dad, who can't resist getting in a dig at his ex-wife. A quick montage showing the couple's friends giving speeches after their vows is pretty fun, too. In further proof that the filmmakers know their audience, two of the very parts of the book fans shake their heads at the most -- getting married as a teen and the cumbersome baby name "Renesmee" -- come in for attacks from various characters. The film needs this self-awareness, it's a way of telling the audience "we're going with it, but we know you think this is goofy, so do we."
And goofy it is. Bella and Edward play some hot honeymoon chess. The scenes in which the vampires run at super-speed are just begging to be set to Benny Hill's "Yakety Sax" music. The computer-generated wolves never move beyond Muppety, and a scene in which the pack, in wolf form, has a conversation might just be the oddest scene in a very odd franchise. Scenes of Edward's venom racing through Bella's bloodstream are done in true "House M.D." style. When the wolves get whacked by an enemy, they make sad little puppy squeaks as if someone just stepped on their tails. Vampire afterlife apparently contains a Sephora, because Bella makes the move from death into undead life with the most beautiful bronze eye shadow perfectly applied to her lids. (I'll assume Alice insisted on that.)
The much-vaunted birth scene is a lot less gory and drawn-out than the book's version, but the moment where Jacob first sees the baby and "imprints" on the newborn as the one person he will always love and protect is still a bit creepy. ("Stop laughing, you're ruining it!" the woman behind me scolded her companion.)
"Breaking Dawn" sticks loyally to the books that fans adore, and kudos to them for that. If there's a way to make a vampire chewing through his love's pregnant abdomen tasteful, they managed it. This is a satisfying almost-conclusion for the millions of Twihards out there, who can go ahead now and start the countdown till Nov. 16, 2012. Just 364 days to go.
Will you see "Breaking Dawn"? Tell us what you're looking forward to, or give us your review in the comments.