Starring: Steven Strait, Sebastian Stan, Laura Ramsey, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway, Chace Crawford. Rated PG-13.
1692, four families of powerful sorcerers from the Ipswich Colony of Massachusetts joined forces to banish a rival clan of
mystical evildoers from their midst. That clan, which tapped into the dark side of the force light years before Anakin Skywalker
made it trendy, was thought to have disappeared, their bloodline cut short and their future eradicated. Meanwhile, the remaining
families went on to stockpile prime New England real estate, invest in plastics and save up enough loot to send their modern-day
descendants to posh private academies in shiny new convertibles and SUVs.
That’s the premise of Renny Harlin’s Covenant, in which four teenage warlocks – the Sons of Ipswich,
as they’re known – are forced into a violent showdown with the new kid in town, who just happens to be a wizard
with a 300-year-old chip on his shoulder. On the surface, they’re an ordinary lot – young swimsuit models with
trust funds who enjoy burgers, foosball and long walks on the beach. What’s not so ordinary is their ability to fly,
shape-shift and manipulate space and time to satisfy their every whim. (Why no generation of their respective families stepped
in to help the Red Sox win the World Series sooner is never adequately explained.)
The leader of the pack is Caleb (Steven Strait), a handsome jock whose supernatural powers are unrivalled within his magical
clique. (Think Harry Potter if he wore contacts, shopped at J. Crew and listened to Mudvayne.) Caleb is turning 18, at which
time he will “ascend” – which is sort of like a Highlander-style quickening – and gain all
kinds of new powers. The only problem? Magic is addictive, and excessive use of the dark arts will result in premature aging.
Hence the dilemma facing Caleb, who is charged with the unenviable task of taking down Chase (Sebastian Stan), the rogue wizard
eager to avenge his family’s exile. (Think Voldemort… if he shopped at J. Crew and listened to Mudvayne.)
Ultimately, The Covenant doesn’t feature any clever twists or turns; if anything, its most remarkable quality
is its utter lack of suspense. The plot unfolds briskly (which is good) and without so much as a single surprise (not so good).
Harlin directs with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the temple: The boys race their cars and blow up barns while the
girls strut about in skimpy lingerie, all set against a background of blaring metal. It’s absurd fluff, instantly forgettable
and silly to the core, but it compensates for its creative shortcomings with manic, scatterbrained energy. Its target audience
won't be bored.