'The Covenant': Pecs Bad Boys

As Chase, Sebastian Stan is the odd man out of
As Chase, Sebastian Stan is the odd man out of "The Covenant," and he makes sure that everyone knows he's none too happy about it. (By Jonathan Wenk -- Sony Pictures Via Ap)
By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 9, 2006

Does the teenage audience for "The Covenant" give two hoots about its supernatural back story? The one in which the Four Sons of Ipswich -- basically, four prep school dudes from Massachusetts -- carry on a 17th-century tradition that five families have handed down through the generations? Well, maybe as a quickie preamble to explain stuff.

What's really going to rock their armchair world is Ipswich superpower.

Not just the glamorous power of their six-pack abs, gel-glooped hair, major pec definition and ivory-perfect teeth that almost go trrrring! when they smile. No, we're talking the psychic ability to unlock doors, swoop into the air, cause objects to hurtle like nuclear missiles. Maybe they're the sons of Carrie.

See those cops chasing them down for partying too hard? The Sons of Ipswich, despite the protestations of their reluctant leader, Caleb (Steven Strait), play a game of cliff-top chicken with them. They drive their SUV to the edge of a cliff and, at the last moment, soar into the air! Just to mess with the cops, they reappear behind them, cackling and chortling.

In this eardrum-punishing, uninspired composite of "X-Men" and the "Harry Potter" series, Caleb and his friends are the good guys, trying their best (hey, they're dudes) to keep their secret from the staff and student body of Spenser Academy. But spooky developments threaten to blow things wide open. A student dies inexplicably. The four buddies are seeing apparitions. And spiders are scuttling all over the room of Caleb's new squeeze, Sarah (Laura Ramsey, a regular on TV's "The Days"). Their Ipswich senses are tingling: Something hostile is on the way. Remember we said four guys but five families? Well, there's your clue.

Director Renny Harlin, whose colon-studded credits include "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" and "Exorcist: The Beginning," knows the deal here: Pay homoerotic homage to youth and beauty, crank up the heavy metal on the soundtrack, and spare no effort to backlight the omnipresent rain. As the central beefcakes, Strait, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway and Chace Crawford certainly embody that agenda, although at times they're so homogenously master race, you can almost hear the young Nazi from "Cabaret" singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." What their audience will appreciate vicariously is their adolescent invincibility, whether they're sailing off that cliff, getting thrown through windows or being punched around in bars. Nothing hurts them. They can fly. And the music never stops.

The Covenant (97 minutes at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for action violence and sexual situations.

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