"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" can be viewed two ways: The phenomenon, and the movie.

Young girls' gleeful gasps greeting the movie's first image, that of a full moon, translated into the third biggest box office opening ever.

The movie is rather less than phenomenal, pedestrian even. It is a clock-watcher, as veteran reviewers might say. You keep looking at your watch to see how much longer the movie will continue. Call it "Slow Moon."

The storyline is nondescript. The dialogue is as wooden as the stake through a vampire's heart.

The acting is bland, with one notable exception.

The pace is predictable, with a song thrown in every 15 minutes or so to pick up the pace, music video style. The special effects are so-so.

Fortunately, for those faint of heart, including this reviewer, precious little blood is spilled. That's in keeping with the first movie, "Twilight." Call this one "Blood Light."

The third installment, "Eclipse," is to open in summer 2010. The movies are based on the four popular novels by Mormon vegetarian housewife Stephenie Meyer. The fourth is "Breaking Dawn," so look for at least four movies.

Then, get ready for a television show spinoff. The pop culture fascination with vampires is such that dentists are fitting patients for prosthetic fangs. Ouch!

The movie is handicapped by the bland voiceover reading and we emphasize reading by Kristen Stewart, reprising her role as Bella, the Forks, Wash., high school senior. Her facial expression ranges from perplexed to more perplexed.

Robert Pattison, as her love interest, Edward the vampire, also registers scant emotion. But you figure he's going to be cool, right? After all, he's not exactly the warm-blooded type.

The film-makers really ought to do something about his white pancake makeup, though, which varies from scene to scene, depending on the lighting. At times, the effect would be more suited to the mime artist, Marcel Marceau. The sparkly, sugar dusting of his skin is a bit much, too. The light brown contact lens for the vampires' eyes are too obvious.

Also, apparently, vampires only wear Edwardian-inspired, black velvet collared gray jackets. Fashionistas, take note.

When Edward's family moves from Forks after Bella's paper cut at the Cullens' birthday party for her, evokes clan bloodlust, Pattison appears mostly as a ghost-like guardian angel, fading in and out of Bella's scenes. This creates a major script problem, as the first movie's tension successfully depended on the chaste chemistry between Bella and Edward. Those moments are few and far between here.

Instead, Bella is preoccupied with Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the Native-American who moonlights, so to speak, as a werewolf. Lautner is the best actor of the three young leads.

But who decided that werewolves in human form should have perfectly-shaved chests? Maybe it's to disguise their true nature.

Billy Burke, as Bella's father, and Graham Greene, as Harry, his buddy on the rescue squad, keep the movie grounded in a television-drama reality. The dramatic scenes play like a daytime drama, i.e., soap opera.

Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass," 2007; "About A Boy," 2002), replaced director Catherine Hardwicke, director of the first "Twilight." Weitz, directing from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, who adapted the first "Twilight" movie and has adapted the third, sticks closely to the novel's plot, according to a friend who read the novel and accompanied me to the screening.

Director of Photography Javier Aguirresarobe ("The Road") overuses Martin Scorsese's trademark 360-degree circular camera movement.

Incessant piano plunking and jarring strings by the usually-superb composer Alexandre Desplat ("Julie & Julia," "Coco Before Chanel," "The Queen," "Girl With A Pearl Earring") adds to the after-school not-so-special feel.

The finale, a confrontation in the hall of the Volturi, the ruling vampire council for the uninitiated, is as ridiculous as it is similar to the conclusion of "Twilight."

And I couldn't help but think of David Frost and Tony Blair, every time the camera was on Michael Sheen, here as Aro, the vampire council leader, who portrayed Frost and Blair in "Frost/Nixon" and "The Queen," respectively.

"Interview with the Vampire," anyone? Anne Rice's "The Vampire Chronicles" has more bite.

"The Twlight Saga: The New Moon": MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some violence and action; Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Thriller; Run time: 2 hr., 10 min. Distributed by Summit Entertainment.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "The Twilight Saga: The New Moon" was filmed in British Columbia, Canada; Italy; and Portland, Ore.

Box Office, Nov. 20: "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" lit up the multiplexes, opening with $142.8 million, biggest opening of 2009 and third highest-grossing opening after "The Dark Night" and "Spider-Man 3." Records for opening day ($72.7 million) and midnight showings ($26.3 million) were also broken by "New Moon."

2. "The Blind Side" opened with an impressive $34.1 million, biggest opening ever for a sports drama and biggest opening for a Sandra Bullock movie, including her hit, "The Proposal"; 3. "2012," $26.4 million; $108.1 million, two weeks; 4. "Planet 51" opened with a meager $12.3 million; 5. "Disney's A Christmas Carol," $12.2 million, $79.8 million, three weeks; 6. "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," $10.8 million, $21.2 million; three weeks; 7. "The Men Who Stare at Goats," $2.8 million, $27.6 million, three weeks; 8. "Couples Retreat," $1.9 million, $104.9 million, seven weeks; 9. "The Fourth Kind," $1.7 million, $23.3 million, three weeks; 10. "Michael Jackson's This Is It," $1.6 million, $70.2 million, four weeks.

Unreel: opening Dec. 4: "Everybody's Fine" stars Robert De Niro, who visits his grown children in a comedy-drama also starring Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Melissa Leo and Sam Rockwell. "Brothers" is directed by Jim Sheridan from a script by Lehigh Valley connected screenwriter David Benioff ("Kite Runner ") and stars Tobey Maguire as a returning Afghanistan prisoner-of-war, only to find his ex-con brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) is living with his wife and presumed widow (Natalie Portman). "Armored" stars Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne in an action movie about an armored truck heist gone awry. "Transylmania" is about college students who travel to Transylvania for a semester at Razvan University, only to discover it's not as it appears on the brochure.

Also playing: "Fantastic Mr. Fox," with stop-motion animation directed by Wes Anderson and voices by George Clooney, Bill Murray and Meryl Streep, is based on the Roald Dahl book. "Old Dogs" stars Robin Williams as an unexpected father late in life in the comedy also starring John Travolta and Seth Green. "The Road" stars Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. "Ninja Assassin" stars Rain and Naomie Harris in a chop-socky drama.

One Popcorn Box out of Five Popcorn Boxes