‘Seventh Son’ wears thin

Ben Barnes in a scene from “Seventh Son.”

There’s a fine line between charm and cheese in fantasy epics, and movies as silly and overwrought as “Seventh Son” only help to illustrate just how hard it is to hit the right tone when balancing action, romance, (attempted) wit and the creation of the world.

Based on Joseph Delaney’s novel “The Spook’s Apprentice” (the first in a series), “Seventh Son” tells the story of Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a skilled witch hunter who must train a new apprentice after the evil witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes her imprisonment. He takes on Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) because Tom is the seventh son of the seventh son, which makes him especially suited to the job of killing supernatural beings.

Bridges is as marble mouthed as ever and barely comprehensible. And when you’re not straining to decipher exactly what nonsense exposition was mumbled, they’re dolling out such sitcom-level gems as “I’m starting to wish I was the sixth son.”

Moore doesn’t fare much better as the scorned, shape-shifting witch, who aims to unleash vengeance on humanity because of one betrayal. Mother Malkin teams up with her sister (Antje Traue) and “half witch” niece Alice (Alicia Vikander).

At first, it seems like there might be an epic battle of the sexes brewing. For Master Gregory, death is the only option for a witch. You almost start to feel bad for Mother Malkin and her kind, wishing for a final showdown between the two warring forces. But “Seventh Son” swerves into something much more conventional and expected.

All of this could be forgiven if “Seventh Son” was at least entertaining. The promise of seeing Bridges and Moore on screen was another possible highlight, but their interactions are fleeting and full of plot-heavy ceremony.

When it hit theaters last Friday, it was just under two years since “Seventh Son” originally was intended to be released, and perhaps it should have stayed on the shelf.

“Seventh Son” tried to play it too safe when it should have made the choice to either be camp or sincere.