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Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Fantasia)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Fantasia)
07.09.2010by: Chris Bumbray
5 10

[Ed. note: This film was reviewed as part of the 2010 Fantasia Film Festival]

PLOT: A centuries-old sorcerer, Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), finds an unlikely apprentice in the guise of New Yorker Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel). Despite being the last descendant of Merlin, Stutlerís more interested in winning over the girl of his dreams (Teresa Palmer) than learning the art of sorcery. Meanwhile, Balthazarís nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), plots to resurrect the evil sorceress Morgana (Alice Krige) in a bid to take over the world.

REVIEW: THE SORCERERíS APPRENTICE is textbook Jerry Bruckheimer. Itís a big, glossy, over-produced spectacle loaded to the brims with action, and special FX, but lacking a cohesive narrative. If youíve seen anything Bruckheimerís produced since the first (admittedly solid) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, youíve seen THE SORCERERíS APPRENTICE.

Itís Bruckheimerís second Disney film this summer, following PRINCE OF PERSIA, and like that film itís fairly fun, and occasionally exciting, but so bombastic that you feel more like youíre being bombarded, than actually watching a film. Imagine NATIONAL TREASURE with magic, instead of history, and youíve got this film pegged. Obviously, thatís exactly what Bruckheimer was intending, as this not only shares a director (Jon Turtletaub) with those films, but also the be-wigged leading man, Nicolas Cage.

Supposedly, this is a re-imagining of the classic segment in FANTASIA featuring Mickey Mouse, an army of brooms and Paul Dukasí symphonic poem. Thereís actually an extended sequence in THE SORCERERíS APPRENTICE that pays homage to the cartoon with Dukasí music being retained (although given a synth-y ďupgradeĒ by Bruckheimer regular Trevor Rabin, wailing guitars included), but little else remains from Walt Disney's masterpiece (I wonder what he would have made of this?).

Probably the best thing about THE SORCERERíS APPRENTICE is Nicolas Cage, who actually seems awake here, as opposed to the sleepwalking heís done in some of his more recent films. Typical for Cage, we get a particularly elaborate hairpiece here, with Cage wearing a featured, rock star do. Cage is still in pretty good shape, and he still rocks an action scene, although sadly he mostly just throws bolts of energy and doesnít get much in the way of physical action, other than a brief scrap with Molina. While itís not the slam dunk KICK-ASS was, itís still leagues above many of his recent films, and I still think Cage can mount a full-on comeback if he gets the right kind of roles. Cage obviously knows EXACTLY what kind of movie heís in, so he doesnít play this too seriously, and whenever heís on-screen, THE SORCERERíS APPRENTICE works.

Too bad Cage isnít the star, as he takes a back seat to Jay Baruchel. Now, I like Baruchel. "Undeclared" was a great show and I love him in Judd Apatow movies. He was great in a recent Canadian film called THE TROTSKY, he nailed his brief role in MILLION DOLLAR BABY and I even liked SHEíS OUT OF MY LEAGUE. However, Baruchel is badly miscast here. What they really needed was a Shia LaBeouf-type kid, who can maintain a small semblance of believability in an action role. Baruchelís a great comedic and dramatic actor but heís no action star. His schtick, which is usually endearing, gets old fast surrounded by all the Bruckheimer pyrotechnics on display, and I found that I simply could not take Baruchel seriously in the role.

That said, itís not really Baruchelís fault. He gets lots of cringe-worthy dialogue courtesy of the dopey screenplay, and his romantic subplot with the gorgeous Teresa Palmer isnít fleshed out enough to be believable.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that THE SORCERERíS APPRENTICE might have gotten a bit of last minute cutting, with several characters, including Toby Kebelís evil illusionist/henchmen, abruptly disappearing from the film. Particularly shocking is the lame final showdown between Cage and Molina, which ends before it even begins. I also wish Monica Bellucci, who gets my vote for the sexiest woman alive, got a bit more screen time, as sheís only onscreen for about five minutes.

Overall, THE SORCERERíS APPRENTICE isnít that bad. Despite my many problems with the film, itís an OK time at the movies. Itís also worth noting that a buddy of mine brought along his six year old, and the kid was on the edge of his seat throughout- so obviously it works for kids. For adults, not so much, although itís not as painful to sit through as something like THE LAST AIRBENDER, which I suppose is mild praise, but praise none the less.

RATING: 5.5/10



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