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The Seeker: Dark is Rising

Fox Walden

Review in a Hurry:  In every generation, there is a chosen one…blah blah blah. But anyone looking for the next Harry Potter in this book-to-movie fantasy fable, about an ordinary kid destined to save the world, should keep searching.

The Bigger Picture:  In this attempt to hit the Hogwarts cash machine, Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) turns 14 and, instead of getting acne, discovers it's his destiny to fight the forces of darkness! Or, in this case, the force of darkness, a mysterious somebody called the Rider, played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston.

Turns out Will is the last in a line of Old Ones, apparently a group of British actors who showed up for the paycheck and the catering, since they do very little in the way of training Will or explaining why the Rider doesn't just gut him and get it over with.

The Seeker is based on the series of young-adult fantasy novels by Susan Cooper, but it dumps most of the lore and mythology in favor of a Nintendo-like quest: Will has to collect the signs of power in order to move on to the next level. Can he do it? Can he?

And like a videogame, the movie hits pause regularly to step back into everyday life. But then the bad guy literally gallops into the scene, threatens Will with a line like "You and all your kind will be destroyed," and play resumes.

Powering through this story on an Xbox would be far more fun. Migraine-inducing direction from David L. Cunningham (The Path to 9/11) and leaden dialogue by John Hodge (Trainspotting) suck any joy out of Will's adventure. And if that's not dark enough for you, they throw in some creepy moments reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby and The Omen, which is just weird for a supposedly family-friendly movie.

After the climactic showdown, in which the weapon of choice is angry speechifying, our hero Will hasn't changed that much. He's basically the same good-natured blank he was at the start of all his seeking. But that's perfect if all you're going to do in the sequel is press the reset button, right?

The 180—a Second Opinion:  There are some good moments between Will and his big family in which sibling rivalry is a contact sport. And the best scenes come when the mundane world seems infected with the magical one: the bad guy taking his mother to church, the mall cops as agents of evil.