Certain actors carry enough weight to make weak movies watchable. Think Christopher Walken in “The Rundown,” Gene Hackman in “Runaway Jury” or Liam Neeson in most anything he’s done since “Taken.”
Jeff Bridges doesn’t quite make “Seventh Son” a good film, but at least he manages to help disguise a B-movie behind an A-list cast.
Unlike “Jupiter Ascending,” its primary competition this weekend, “Seventh Son” at least benefits from a clear plot line. Bridges plays Master Gregory, a medieval “Spook” who is responsible for fighting the dark creatures of the earth. He imprisoned a witch named Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) years ago, but now she’s free again, and Gregory only has until the full blood moon until her powers become too much to contain.
Trouble is, this medieval Obi-Wan is getting a little old for his job, so he takes on Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) as an apprentice. Tom is qualified because he happens to be the seventh son of a seventh son, but he also has a few other things going for him that emerge as the story moves along.
Gregory teams up with Tom and an ogre-like character named Tusk to take on Mother Malkin and her dark friends. To keep things interesting, Malkin has sent her innocent-looking niece Alice (Alicia Vikander) to keep an eye on Tom, and use her feminine wiles to give Team Malkin the upper hand against the good guys.
There’s never any real doubt as to where this is all going, but the story is just good enough and the action just exciting enough to keep “Seventh Son” from completely going off the rails. Its dialogue and execution are far too corny to make “Seventh Son” anything better than a forgettable early February release, but it has enough going for it to make it watchable.
“Seventh Son” definitely has the look of a film with reasonable production value. Most of the effects are well done, aside from a couple of human-to-animal transformations that look suspect. There are plenty of sweeping vistas and beautiful location shots, but note that the available 3-D option does nothing to enhance them.
The acting — though far from impressive — is never so bad that it’s distracting. Bridges won’t make any of his fans forget "The Dude" or any of his more iconic performances, and his campy drawl almost singlehandedly keeps “Seventh Son” from being taken too seriously. Moore does a reasonable job as the devious Mother Malkin, despite some corny dialogue that keeps her from really shining.
Barnes and Vikander show decent chemistry as the film’s romantic leads, even though the story doesn’t do anything to justify their flowering affections.
In the end, director Sergey Bodrov hasn’t given us anything to distinguish “Seventh Son” from any number of adventures involving witches and knights and dragons. The key to enjoying “Seventh Son” is to keep modest expectations. And, in this case, “modest expectations” probably means you’re better off saving your first-run dollars and waiting for cheaper options.
“Seventh Son” is rated PG-13 for action violence and frightening moments, along with some mild sexuality.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.