If you've ever sat through Fantasia
and wished that Disney would just make that whole magical
broom thing into a live-action sequence, then you're in
luck. Apparently Nicolas Cage had the exact same wish as
you, and because he's Nicolas Cage and you're not, he can
make all his whims happen. Want to marry Elvis' daughter?
Check. Want to name your son after Superman? Check. Want
to get one of Hollywood's most powerful producers on board
to make a vanity project? Check.
And yet, let me give Cage credit. He worked
up the idea for The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and it's
not a horrible story. He surrounded himself with good actors
who still somehow make him seem subtle. Showing that Cage
truly is a showman - and I do mean that as a compliment
- he also lets Jay Baruchel be the lead. This is, after
all, about a sorcerer's apprentice, and Cage can
be no less than a sorcerer.
Though the elements are in place, The
Sorcerer's Apprentice ends up being like McDonald's
french fries. Okay, you wanted them when you saw them because
you've been conditioned to, you didn't hate eating
them, but nothing about them really stays. Bring on the
next Happy Meal!
Jon Turteltaub does a journeyman's job of putting it all together,
but as in last month's Prince
of Persia, there's a lot of dense exposition to get
through before the actual story can begin. First we see the
Fall of Camelot through the eyes of Merlin and his two acolytes
- the improbably alliterative (he's a superhero!) Balthazar
Blake (Nicolas Cage) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci).
They've been betrayed as Morgana (Alice
Krige) tries to take over the world. One of their own, Maxim
Horvath (Alfred Molina), has sided with evil because, well,
there's a reason you should see coming a mile away but let's
just settle on because he's named Maxim Horvath. With a
name like that, you don't really have a choice but to be
And oh, does Molina have a blast with that.
He's a little more reserved here than he was in Prince
of Persia, but he still just makes every scene he's
in fun, even when he has to spout turgid lines like "So
this is what passes for a Morganian?"
For it turns out that somehow this
is essentially Armageddon, and Merlin (James A. Stephens)
has to wait for a savior to turn it all around - the Prime
Merlinian. Luckily, Balthazar wins a temporary victory,
but at a great price, and then wanders around the world
for a thousand years looking for that chosen one.
So that's Prologue One. Then in the year
2000, he finds young Dave (Jake Cherry), a creative mind
who wanders away from a school field trip and into Balthazar's
magic shop. Things go awry, and everything gets delayed
ten years after Dave convinces himself he had a glucose
deficiency that caused hallucinations.
Now played by Jay Baruchel, Dave has become
a physics student of uncertain age. The script places him
at 19 or 20, contradicting itself in a couple of places.
The only thing for certain is he's the only college student
in the world with a hard-partying roommate who doesn't actually
… party. All the better to keep that PG rating.
Of course, Horvath has returned determined
to bring back Morgana, and Balthazar has to convince Dave
of his destiny and train him to be strong enough to fight
It's just too bad that Dave found a different
kind of magic - love in the form of Becky (Teresa Palmer),
cute and winsome and falling in love with Dave just because
without it there wouldn't be nearly as much tension. Even
she comments that their dates really don't go well at all.
Following the numbers of what a summer
blockbuster is supposed to be, at least The Sorcerer's
Apprentice throws in the occasional loopy detail. Dave
works with Tesla Coils as his Senior Thesis, a project which
would probably not actually be approved because of the potential
for large block-destroying, Big Trouble in Little China-sized
explosions. Thank heavens he does, though, because that
means he has a big stone dungeon-like workshop, perfect
for sorcery training.
Unfortunately a lot of what passes for
sorcery seems more like using the Green Lantern power ring,
and a lot of the beats here will look familiar to fans of
that character. It's all about will and focus and a dragon
ring with glowing green eyes, until a sorcerer gets powerful
enough to become Ion, er, Merlinian.
At least when the magic is going on, the
movie has a goofy appeal. Despite the charm of Baruchel
and Palmer, the romance feels contrived and there because
it has to be. (Palmer's character is a college radio DJ
who doesn't seem to know a thing about how radio actually
works - and often leaves the studio before anybody else
shows up to replace her. Hmmm… maybe that is how
college radio works.)
Baruchel also needs to learn not to work
so hard. He's up against heavyweight reputations like Cage
and Molina, and so developed a series of quirks and tics
to make him stand out. It works, but it's also really distracting
after the third or fourth time you realize that Katherine
Hepburn didn't shake this much (though early George Clooney
Better to take the route of Horvath's minions,
who really let costume and make-up do most of the work and
enjoy the ride. Toby Kebbell, who was also in Prince
of Persia in a very different kind of character, shows
up as stage magician and Morganian Drake Stone, proof that
Criss Angel, Mindfreak is actually evil. Fans of The
Crucible may also be happy with Horvath's surprise assistant,
though she gets way too little to do considering how creepy
she could be.
then, this has to be kept at a safe PG, because despite
the big explosions and wild stunts - many of which are
a heck of a lot of fun -- The Sorcerer's Apprentice
is a family film. It will absolutely draw in the kids, and
on a scale of The Last
Airbender to Toy
Story 3, it's not bad. I'm just ready for the next