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Family Movie Review: Seventh Son (PG-13)

SeventhSon ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): half-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 94 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. A man who is kind of a knight/warrior travels around killing witches, monsters, and other supernatural foes; there are some CGI beasts and dragons, witches wearing cleavage-y outfits and trying to seduce men; a few kisses; and some cursing, including the f-word. The movie is based off a series of children’s books, but it isn’t really made for young viewers; it is probably best for young teens and up.

Nearly three years after it was filmed, the Jeff Bridges-starring ‘Seventh Son’ is finally released. What a terribly plotted, lazily acted mess.

By Roxana Hadadi

January through March is a doldrums season for movies—usually the films studios have the least faith in are released during this time of the year, so those distributors can theoretically cut their losses before blockbuster season (April through August) and awards season (September through December). So that’s why the long-delayed “Seventh Son” is finally getting released now, three years after it was filmed and two years after it was originally supposed to hit theaters. But if it had never made it here, you wouldn’t have missed out—”Seventh Son” will undoubtedly be remembered, if at all, as one of the worst movies of 2015.

There have already been some clunkers in the past six weeks (“Taken 3,” “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,” “Strange Magic,” “Black or White”), but “Seventh Son” is attempting to be a fantasy epic, something none of those films did. They at least tried to operate within narrower confines. “Seventh Son” is trying to be memorable and adventurous and clever and eye-catching and great, and it throws together a moderately prestigious cast (Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore) to try and pull this off. But only one of those stars is trying (Moore; Bridges, in contrast, looks like he’s sleepwalking through this thing), and she alone can’t solve the problem of a terrible script from writers Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight (who previously wrote “The Hundred-Foot Journey”), or bland direction from Sergey Bodrov, or the charisma vacuum that is Ben Barnes (of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”), the titular “seventh son.” Altogether, it’s a total mess.

The film, based on the children’s book “The Spook’s Apprentice” by Joseph Delaney (the first in a series, but thankfully there hasn’t been any talk of a sequel for this big-screen adaptation), centers on the “spook” Master Gregory (Bridges, of “The Giver”), who basically travels around fighting supernatural, otherworldly, or evil things for helpless villagers; his mission is to “tend” to “creatures of the dark.” He’s had an unlucky streak with apprentices lately, and his most recent, Bradley (Kit Harington, of “Pompeii”), was murdered by a treacherous witch, Mother Malkin (Moore, of “Still Alice”), who Gregory had locked up long ago but who frees herself because of the powers of the Blood Moon or something. So Mother Malkin is looking for revenge against Gregory for her years of imprisonment, and Gregory is looking for a new apprentice to help him in this battle, and he comes across Tom Ward (Barnes), the “seventh son of a seventh son.” The importance of this characteristic is only barely glazed over—seventh sons of seventh sons are supposed to be more strong, have better reflexes, and generally be more powerful than average men, although it’s never explained why—but Gregory rapidly pays off Tom’s family for his servitude and sets to training him.

But of course Gregory and Tom don’t get along, especially when Tom gets entangled with a beautiful half-witch, half-gypsy, Alice (Alicia Vikander, of “Anna Karenina”), who has been sent by Mother Malkin to spy on the pair but who may be developing real feelings for Tom, too. And there’s also a special stone that Tom’s mother gave him for protection, and some dramatic romantic history between Gregory and Mother Malkin that fuels their resentment for each other, and also an army of assassins all in Mother Malkin’s employ who are trailing the good guys, and on and on and on. There are a lot of things happening here but they’re all inconsequential, partially because Bridges’s performance is a joke, partially because Barnes is as exciting as watching furniture in an empty room, partially because Bodrov’s direction is so listless.

There no changes in tone to build suspense; a scene where Tom is fighting a reanimated corpse is as one-note as one where he goes over a waterfall as one where he and Alicia are declaring their love for each other. Barnes operates at this totally down-key register that brings no joy or enthusiasm to the role. Perhaps he was trying to mirror Bridges, who lays on a terrible, marble-mouthed accent so that most of his dialogue is unintelligible; he can’t even be bothered to brush his scraggly hair out of his face half the time. And although Moore is trying to bring some evil zeal to her regal witch role, she can’t do the same thing Charlize Theron did for “Snow White and the Huntsman”; she’s too controlled of an actress to fully unhinge. Plus, how many more times are we going to get male-centered fantasy films where the women turn evil because of romantic rejection? (Ahem, “Oz the Great and Powerful.”) It’s a narrative device that’s as lazy as it is sexist.

“Seventh Son” is the kind of movie that puts effort into explaining the difference between ghosts and ghasts, but can’t develop its characters, stage believable fight scenes, or make any kind of real argument for why it should exist in the first place. It all leads up to Tom being told “there has never been anyone like you,” but why should you care? You shouldn’t.

Enjoy reading this review? Check out our roundup of what other films are opening this week.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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