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Family Movie Review: The Last Witch Hunter (PG-13)

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MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 106 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 14+. The film is about evil witches, and there is some creepy imagery here: the main villain looks like she’s made out of scar tissue and twigs, she has demons that do her bidding, trees are made of blood and bones, there are hordes of plague flies infecting people, and there is violence in the form of stabbings, gunshots, swordfights, hand-to-hand combat, and characters who are “pulled” into nightmare worlds. Also the discussion of characters who were murdered, some cursing, the depiction and jokes about one-night stands, and some light romantic tension between two characters, but no kissing.

‘The Last Witch Hunter’ is not a creative or imaginative movie, but it’s just silly enough to be amusing in its stupidity. This is the kind of bad movie you can enjoy, even as you acknowledge its massive shortcomings.

By Roxana Hadadi

The film “The Last Witch Hunter” goes about exactly the way you would expect. There is a man, he hunts witches, and he’s the last of his kind. That’s pretty much it! And yet the film is goofy in its stupidity, just silly enough to be sometimes enjoyable instead of thoroughly abhorrent.

Vin Diesel (of “Furious 7”) stars as Kaulder, who hundreds of years ago loses his beloved wife and daughter to the Black Plague, which wasn’t a human illness but a curse from the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht), who believes humans are the actual disease. Witches are a separate race gifted with magic, and she thinks humans should be expunged from the Earth – an argument that the Axe and Cross, a secret religious organization tasked with protecting humans from witches, isn’t so down with.

But when Kaulder ends up killing the Witch Queen, there is an unexpected twist: She curses him with immortality, keeping him from joining his wife and daughter in the afterlife. So hundreds of years later, Kaulder serves as the “Weapon” of the Axe and Cross, maintaining the peace between unknowing humans and the descendants of witches, some of whom don’t know they have magic, some of whom know and use it benevolently, and some of whom know and use it malevolently. It’s Kaulder’s job to find and them bring them to justice before the Witches Council, and it’s been his job for nearly a century.

His partner in this is Father Dolan (Michael Caine, of “Interstellar”), a member of the Axe and Cross tasked with writing Kaulder’s history and helping him maintain the peace. But Dolan, who is the 36th of his kind and Kaulder’s only real friend, is mysteriously murdered by a witch – ruining the peace between the two races, and sending Kaulder on a quest to find the killer. Dolan’s last advice to Kaulder was “remember your death,” a missive that sends Kaulder, now assigned to the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood, of “The Wind Rises”), to the potion maker Chloe (Rose Leslie).

Can Chloe help Kaulder revisit his past? And can she help him before the baddies hunting Kaulder succeed in their ultimate, nefarious quest? The world depends on it, of course.

Tonally, “The Last Witch Hunter” is clearly going for a kind of self-aware, modern-infused spin on the supernatural, kind of like the comic book adaptation of “Constantine” that starred Keanu Reeves in 2005. Kaulder mocks Dolan 36th for not using the iPad he gifted him, there are jokes about Chloe being in chat groups that call Kaulder an “immortal fascist,” a minor character is a warlock who helps a bakery make their cupcakes addictive to characters by lacing them with magic, and there is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge quality to this whole thing that invites people into the world they have created.

But that inclusiveness doesn’t absolve the film’s unimaginative storytelling choices: that the witches are vain and obsessed with their looks; that they want to destroy humanity for destroying Mother Earth; that their spells drag people into a demonic underworld; that there is a character close to Kaulder who ends up betraying him. These are all elements you would expect from this kind of supernatural action film, and “The Last Witch Hunter” delivers them readily. There are no twists here, no surprises, nothing unexpected. It gets boring quickly.

Nevertheless, Diesel is clearly into the material, and his charm and enthusiasm go a long way. The film has an intentional mythology, which demonstrates some kind of effort. “The Last Witch Hunter” isn’t a unique film, but it has elements that work better than you would think – and at least its stupidity is kind of fun.

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

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