The worst spell cast in Season of the Witch is the one that falls over the audience -- much akin to a sleep potion with a time release; the curse awaits any curious soul who comes near. Indeed, Season of the Witch is a snoozer, but the cause for this blight is an interesting one. For starters, the picture is wildly off-balance, as its broadest and most interesting supernatural moments are used sparingly in the film’s bookends, with the road in between packed full of plot meanderings and faux-buddy wit. It’s like the picture was crafted to be serious while the script or possibly its stars were intermittently trying to keep things light. An uneven tone would be one thing if the film had the goods to show for it, yet this witchy tale needs more witchy business for it to be worth a viewing.
The dynamic duo at the heart of the film is made up of two ex-knights (Ron Perlman and Nicolas Cage) who are drafted to escort a possible witch (Claire Foy) to a group of monks during the height of the Black Plague. They’re escorted on this six-day trip by a priest (Stephen Campbell Moore), another knight (Ulrich Thomsen), a sometimes-wisecracking, sometimes-not guide (Stephen Graham), and an altar boy (Robbie Sheehan) -- all of whom yield varying degrees of insignificance. Along the way, the group encounters wolves with inexplicable CG faces, endless puss-filled victims of the plague, and an ominous creaky bridge. Yep, Season of the Witch comes to a crushing halt halfway through the film to deal with a creaky bridge. Then, just when all hope seems lost for this Dark Ages drama in CG wolf’s clothing, in comes a ridiculous devil-monster finale to liven things up.
What Season of the Witch gets right is fleeting, yet still packs some sort of punch. The opening sequence holds promise -- with its Sam Raimi-styled witch-vs.-holy man fight setting the stage for what could be a slick medieval romp. Things take a turn for the worse from that moment on, first through a cheap montage of Crusade battles -- then pausing a bit too long here and there with the setup before turning into a genuine road movie with none of the intensity of the prologue. Scenes volley between serious crises of faith to talky/jokey scenes of Perlman and Cage tellin’ stories about how great things used to be. One thing’s for sure, this adventure yields little that would make their characters’ top-ten lists, unless pushing a cart over a creaky bridge counts.
Director Dominic Sena continues his underwhelming career, this time teaming up with Cage for a second time after their forgettable CG car-stunt remake, Gone in 60 Seconds. Sena seems to let the leads do what they like, as long as the visuals are cold, grey, and unremarkable. For his part, Cage decides to play the knight a little too straight, which is at odds with Ron Perlman’s all-too-modern buddy banter. As for the cheese-ball ending, it almost acts as a much-needed shot in the arm. Sure, the dosage makes the film a little goofy, but at least Nic Cage fighting a CG creature is a spectacle worth watching, no matter how dopey it ultimately is. Too bad the road to dumbsville feels like 30 hours instead of an hour and 30 minutes -- so tread lightly if the curiosity strikes you.
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- Released: 2011
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: The worst spell cast in Season of the Witch is the one that falls over the audience -- much akin to a sleep potion with a time release; the curse awaits any curious soul who comes near. Indeed, Season of the Witch is a snoozer, but the cause for this bligh… (more)