DIRECTED BY Sergey Bodrov
STARS Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes
In the case of Julianne Moore, her probable victory for Still Alice won’t be at all threatened by her turn in Seventh Son. She’s perfectly acceptable as the story’s heavy, a witch known by the rather benign name of Mother Malkin.
Her performance is no worse than those delivered by a sizable number of A-list actresses recently cast as matriarchal evildoers in magical realms: Rachel Weisz, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron, the absurdly Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep, etc.
No, the guffaw-worthy turn in Seventh Son comes from the cast member already blessed with an Oscar – that would be top-billed Jeff Bridges as Master John Gregory, an elderly knight now renowned for his witch- and spirit-hunting abilities.
Doubtless realizing he’s wallowing in nonsense, Bridges gives his otherwise bland character a unique accent (speech impediment?), delivering all of his lines as a mix of his True Grit character, a belligerent walrus, and a 45 rpm record played at 33-1/3 rpm.
Beyond Bridges’ ham-on-wry performance, there’s nothing remotely original about Seventh Son, which is based on a YA novel – The Spook’s Apprentice in its UK homeland, The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch on this side of the Atlantic – but might as well be based on 10,000 previous fantasy flicks.
Seeking a new assistant in his battle against the dark arts, Master Gregory seeks out a young farmhand named Tom Ward (bland Ben Barnes), who’s the Chosen One since he’s the seventh son of a seventh son.
But complications develop when Tom falls for Mother Malkin’s niece, a good witch named Alice (Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, seen to better effect in Anna Karenina and A Royal Affair).
On top of that, there’s the sordid history between Master Gregory and Mother Malkin, since they once were lovers. And then there’s the gargantuan secret that Tom’s mother (Olivia Williams) is keeping from him.
Presumably, not even a full season of General Hospital contains this much hoary, ham-fisted melodrama.
Considering the film wasn’t shot in 3-D but was converted at a later date in the post-production process, the visuals are pretty good, demonstrating we’ve come a long way since the muddy eyesore vistas of Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans.
But when everything taking place within the screen parameters is so dull and uninspired, it’s hard to get too excited by a crisp look.
Mother Malkin has the ability to turn into a dragon at will, but – to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen’s retort to Dan Quayle – I screened Smaug; I knew Smaug. Mother, you’re no Smaug (or Jack Kennedy, for that matter).
Similarly, the ethereal spirits look like unused apparitions from Bridges’ debacle R.I.P.D., while the enterprise as a whole has a whiff of Eragon ineptitude to it.
But I was amused by Tusk, a lumbering man-beast who helps out our heroes from time to time. There’s a scene in which Tusk is shown not to wash his hands after relieving himself, and it was at that moment when I realized this ugly ogre with a bad haircut and poor hygiene was the spitting image of U.S. Senator Thom “Let them eat doodoo!” Tillis.