September 14, 2006

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The Covenant (PG-13)
If you liked the barely concealed homosexual tension and WB-level acting of The Skulls, you’re gonna love the barely concealed homosexual tension — this time tarted up with witchcraft! — and Laguna Beach-level acting of The Covenant, a giddily moronic teen horror movie.

The true horror, of course, will be 10 years from now when these young actors close their eyes and issue a heavy sigh at the thought that this movie remains out there and available for all to see. Should any of them become successful (unlikely, but who knows), it will be the kind of embarrassing footage played on a night team talk show for easy highschool-yearbook-photo-like laughs. More likely, it will be the reason their agents give for not being able to get them that part they want in that Scorsese film.

But hurrah for us! Their future heartache is our amusement!

Caleb Danvers (Steven Strait), Pogue Parry (Taylor Kitsch), Reid Garwin (Toby Hemingway) and Tyler Sims (Chace Crawford) are known as the Sons of Ipswich — all of them are the oldest male heirs to families that were among the founders of Ipswich, Mass.

(Sorry, I have to take a moment to give a little squeal of glee here. Steven Strait? Toby Hemingway? Chace Crawford? Taylor Kitsch!?! How fantastic are those names? How often do you come across a group of actors so much more absurdly named than their absurdly named characters?)

They seem almost too good to be real and so naturally they aren’t entirely real — each of them has magical powers handed down through the generations. Though these powers allow them to bend the laws of physics to their will, the powers also slowly suck the life out of them, such that an over-imbiber of the dark arts will end up a withered raisin of a man, a living Dorian Gray portrait, by the time he is 40.

But, whatever, these boys are teenagers, so no amount of cautionary nonsense really steers them away from using their powers at every turn, whether to fight with each other like puppies or to pull a book off a shelf (seriously, how hard is the whole book-getting action? And it’s not even from a high shelf. It’s like being in a firefight using one of your three remaining bullets to open a can of Diet Coke). And, even though they hide their powers from the mere mortals of the world, there’s still something a little boy band special about them, so they manage to get any girls they want. In the case of Caleb, that girl is Sarah (Laura Ramsey), a new girl to the requisite creepy New England private school where all the kids in this posh town matriculate.

But, hark, Sarah’s not the only new kid. There’s also a tousle-haired boy named Chase Collins (magnificently named Sebastian Stan in real life). He also has that sparkly look of being blessed by the Abercombie & Fitch fairy. And, hey, back in the day, weren’t there five founding families of Ipswich? And didn’t one of them vanish during the Salem witch trials? Huh, wonder if any kind of bloodline survived….

Quicker than you can say, “welcome to the Ip’, bitch,” the four find an enemy in the one and all sorts of black-iris, abracadabra fun ensues.

And, this one time? During a fight? Lead guy Caleb? Gets beat up by bad boy Chase? And Chase is all suavely evil and “give me your powers or I’ll kill your girl friend” or whatever. And then? They kiss! Not a Brokeback Mountain kiss. More of a The Godfather Part II I-know-it-was-you-Fredo type kiss. But still, so much wonderful!

Wistful sigh.

The Covenant is, naturally, ridiculous — hence all the ridicule — but don’t let that stop you from seeing it. Let that stop you from paying for it. But by all means see it for free. See it with a group of catty friends and a bottle of very drinkable wine. It is with admiration of camp and a healthy appreciation for the badness of most teen-focused films that I give this movie the warmest and most cuddly D+

— Amy Diaz


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