See if this sounds familiar: teenage boy in England is informed by wise British elders in robes that he is "special" and that he alone can stop the evil forces bent on conquering the world. Boy is reluctant hero, but ultimately accepts the challenge: balancing world-saving with girl problems and other teenage concerns. Harry Potter? No, a lesser-known literary antecedent: The Dark Is Rising. Unfortunately, the movie version is post-Potter, which is a bad place to be if you're a sub-par, adolescent boy-wonder fantasy film.
The film is based on (or "inspired by," as some diehards no doubt prefer) the 1974 Newberry award-winning book by Susan Cooper—part two of a five-book series of novels for children, originally published in the 60s and 70s. Following in the footsteps of Lewis or Tolkien-esque fantasy, the books feature youths on whimsical adventures, thrust into epic battles between good and evil, with colorful characters and creatures on both sides of the struggle.
I have not read the books, and came into the film with no knowledge of the story. Still, it was pretty easy to follow what was going on. The film takes place in England, where the American Stanton family resides in a shire-esque rural town with a mysterious Arthurian vibe (it's never really explained why they are there, but it's a fun setup nonetheless). The youngest son in a house of seven children, the precocious Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) is just celebrating his fourteenth birthday as the movie opens. After his birthday, strange things start happening to him (and not puberty, as his teasing older brothers suggest). Before he knows it, Will is the centerpiece in an epic time-traveling quest to save the world.
Evidently, as a "seventh son of a seventh ...