Plot deficient to the point of formlessness, New Moon ups the Twilight franchise’s schmaltzy teen-lit melodrama without providing any sort of narrative backbone to sustain it. As with its predecessor, this sequel is built around the chaste romance between human teen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and hunky vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a pair of fashion mag-ready actors stuck brooding and pining with laughable severity – to watch and listen to Stewart violently scream during nightmares in which she longs for her fanged boyfriend is to witness the perfect storm of overwrought writing and hammy acting. In this installment, Edward decides to abandon Forks, Washington and Bella in order to protect her from all his vamp friends eager to feast on her blood (as well as those who might use her against him), thus breaking her heart and leaving her in the care of perpetually shirtless Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who it turns out is a werewolf. Director Chris Weitz drenches his mopey proceedings in slow-mo shots of Pattinson strutting and Bella yearning, his over-the-top tone in line with material that bluntly, and incapably, strives for Romeo & Juliet-style tragic grandeur even as it goes so heavy on soapy silliness (not least of which is the continuing sight of Edward’s skin shining like sparkly diamonds when touched by the sun) that the entire affair plays like a joke. Basic questions abound – what’s so special about the featureless Bella? Why does Jacob put up with Bella’s cruel cock-tease behavior? And why would Bella even be interested in Edward and Jacob, two dim-witted, one-expression-only ciphers? – but dissecting the film in such obvious ways is to miss the point entirely. New Moon is only after the affectation of emotion, of swoon-worthy poses and faux-momentous aesthetics. Nonetheless, given how drearily slipshod and uneventful this chapter’s basic plotting is (Bella misses Edward, risks death via extreme sports so she can see Edward’s spirit, and gives Jacob blue balls), it’s hard not to feel that anyone – save, perhaps, for the cornily named Twi-hard zealots – would derive greater satisfaction from the similar, yet far more cheesily entertaining, True Blood.