Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
[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, Stutlers more interested in winning over the girl of his dreams (Teresa Palmer) than learning the art of sorcery. Meanwhile, Balthazars nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), plots to resurrect the evil sorceress Morgana (Alice Krige) in a bid to take over the world.
REVIEW: THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE is textbook Jerry Bruckheimer. Its a big, glossy, over-produced spectacle loaded to the brims with action, and special FX, but lacking a cohesive narrative. If youve seen anything Bruckheimers produced since the first (admittedly solid) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, youve seen THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE.
Its Bruckheimers second Disney film this summer, following PRINCE OF PERSIA, and like that film its fairly fun, and occasionally exciting, but so bombastic that you feel more like youre being bombarded, than actually watching a film. Imagine NATIONAL TREASURE with magic, instead of history, and youve got this film pegged. Obviously, thats 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 Dukas symphonic poem. Theres actually an extended sequence in THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE that pays homage to the cartoon with Dukas music being retained (although given a synth-y upgrade 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 SORCERERS APPRENTICE is Nicolas Cage, who actually seems awake here, as opposed to the sleepwalking hes 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 doesnt get much in the way of physical action, other than a brief scrap with Molina. While its not the slam dunk KICK-ASS was, its 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 hes in, so he doesnt play this too seriously, and whenever hes on-screen, THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE works.
Too bad Cage isnt 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 SHES 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. Baruchels a great comedic and dramatic actor but hes 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, its not really Baruchels fault. He gets lots of cringe-worthy dialogue courtesy of the dopey screenplay, and his romantic subplot with the gorgeous Teresa Palmer isnt fleshed out enough to be believable.
I also have a sneaking suspicion that THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE might have gotten a bit of last minute cutting, with several characters, including Toby Kebels 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 shes only onscreen for about five minutes.
Overall, THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE isnt that bad. Despite my many problems with the film, its an OK time at the movies. Its 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 its not as painful to sit through as something like THE LAST AIRBENDER, which I suppose is mild praise, but praise none the less.
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