Throughout his adaptation of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's YA novel, Richard Lagravenese drops the names of books that would have provided a more rewarding way of spending a couple of hours than watching this movie. For instance, the adolescent classics Catcher in the Rye, On the Road, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Slaughterhouse-Five, which Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), a small-town kid yearning for romance, is reading. No wonder he keeps dreaming about an elusive, beckoning sprite. But then he meets Lena (Kristen Stewart clone Alice Englert), the ostracized new kid in school, and finds the girl of his dreams.
What he doesn't know is that Lena is a pastiche of characters from Harry Potter, Twilight, Interview with the Vampire, Carrie. . . . A "Caster" (i.e., she casts spells), she's hiding out at the manor of her creepy Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons, dressed like the pope on holiday), so her wicked mother can't find her and convert her to evil. Ethan is an unwelcome distraction — for the viewer too, since Ehrenreich is more like Jethro Clampett than Truman Capote. LaGravanese at times spins striking images — a scene in which Ethan walks into a magical time warp is particularly nightmarish. But he also has a weakness for clichés; I guess he's been taking lessons from the wrong books.