Arts & Entertainment

Bewitching? Benumbing is more like it

EntertainmentMoviesPG-13 Rated MoviesRenny HarlinMovie IndustryJosh HartnettAssault

"The Covenant" is a terrible movie, a bucket of water on the teen-witch genre.

This tepid brew's ingredients are as follows: Descendants of four of five families persecuted in the Salem witch trials are now best buds at a New England boarding school. They're rich, they're handsome, they're magically delicious. Along come a sweet, hot chick who falls for the boys' leader and a mysterious transfer student who turns out to be … well, that one's not hard to divine. And, uh … let the teen-angsty struggle between good and bad magic begin.

Sprung from clichés, devoid of thrills and thoroughly predictable, "The Covenant" invokes the wan spirits of "The Lost Boys" and "The Craft." You'd think the filmmakers could have aimed higher. They did throw some Harry Potter and X-Men into their caldron, but not enough to lift the curse of director Renny Harlin ("Cutthroat Island," "Driven").

The film starts out wanting to be a horror thriller, to which end we have the usual yawn-inducing "stalker" camera moves and people turning around to find someone suddenly there. Then it transmogrifies into a superhero slugfest, in which the lack of rules dispels any excitement. If these guys can so effortlessly rearrange atoms, why does the climactic battle amount to mystic dodge ball?

The movie's ineffectualness begins with its title: Despite what the filmmakers seem to think, a "covenant" is an agreement; a "coven" is a group of witches, male or female. Apparently "The Coven" didn't sound butch enough for these pouting, strutting male models.

This preternaturally photogenic bunch is oiled up and paraded to the edge of PG-13, but there's nothing resembling alchemy among them.

No, that's not Josh Hartnett as Caleb, the tousle-haired, moody leader of these sons of witches — it's relative newcomer Steven Strait, all smoldering eyes and sap in his veins.

Sebastian Stan plays wicked guy Chase Collins one unnecessary pause away from full-on Shatnerdom. The girls are gorgeous but have naught to do but smile and scream.

Respected veteran Wendy Crewson, as Caleb's mom, is relegated to mouthing excruciating exposition.

As boredom sets in, the viewer realizes that "The Covenant" does possess one magical power: It afflicts its audience with restless leg syndrome.

*

"The Covenant"

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, sexual content, partial nudity and language

A Screen Gems/Sony Pictures release. Director Renny Harlin. Screenplay J.S. Cardone. Producers Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi. Director of photography Pierre Gill. Editor Nicolas de Toth. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

In general release.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading