The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

Andrew INDIFFERENTI was all set to cry about Nicolas Cage starring in yet another film adapted from Disney property but it looks like I'll have to settle for disappointment.  In this case a live action rendition of one of the most recognized animation sequences in history, The Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia.  Well, now we have The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which features a long-coat sporting Nicolas Cage, a goateed Alfred Molina, and a bunch of mugging from Jay Baruchel.

If the film had continued on as badly as it had started, the predicted tears would have flowed easily and frequently.  We're treated to a disasterously edited sequence where the main players are introduced and shuffled off-screen at an alarming pace.  It's 740 AD and the great Merlin (James A. Stephens) is on the ropes as Morgana (Alice Krige) is blasting him with every spell in her arsenal.  Nearby is Morgana's equally vile apprentice Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Merlin's apprentices Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) and Veronica Gorloisen (Monica Bellucci).

A typical moment - Cage as Balthazar looking very serious and Baruchel as Dave being really happy about magic.

In the span of two minutes Merlin is killed, Morgana becomes one with Veronica, their new body is trapped in a birthing doll, and we flash forward 1260 years so that the only physically present sorcerer left, Balthazar, can find the chosen one.  That's a lot of information to process, and Jon Turteltaub just isn't up to the task of making sure either the adults or the kids in the honest have the slightest idea of what's going on.

Thankfully the film calms down and Balthazar finds young Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry as a child and Jay Baruchel as an adult).  Balthazar explains that Dave is the Chosen One to carry on Merlin's legacy and, after taking this news quite well, accidentally releases Maxim from his prison inside the doll.  This sets off a 10 year long sequence of events where evil is fought, love is found, and a happy ending may be attainable.

I could go on about the plot, but so much happens in The Sorcerer's Apprentice that it's difficult to keep track.  The key roles in the film go to Baruchel, Cage and Molina as Sorcerer, Apprentice and Evil Sorcerer (respectively).  I must report that Nicolas Cage's usual firey self is not present in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. If pressed to come up with a word for his overall performance I have to go with two, "tacitly disinterested".  There are a few moments where he does spring to life and actually reacts to what's going on around him, but usually defaults to steely resolve mixed with boredom.

I'm an unashamed Alfred Molina fan-boy and he get's a lot of great moments of villainy in the film.

Baruchel and Molina fare far better and actually almost save the movie.  I realize that Baruchel's form of nervous and nerdy acting doesn't quite work for everyone, but when he gets a role like this where he can have some confidence he comes off as a very likable protagonist.  His enthusiasm for the new world of magic is a lot of fun to watch, but less so the tacked on romance subplot involving his long lost elementary school sweetheart.  Molina, as always, relishes his opportunities to play villains and wouldn't be out of place in an old Olivier production of Richard III.  He gets his own evil apprentice later on (a very amusing David Blaine/Siegfried and Roy-esque sellout) and has a number of amusing scenes as the two master/apprentice pairs fight against one another.

So the performances are there, but the rest of the film feels pretty uninspired.  The special effects are good, but the most creative use of magic in any situation is usually to blast something with energy balls until the opponent is no longer moving.  There are a couple of nice tricks such as a great metal gargoyle and an unhelpful mirror, but nothing else too spectacular.

Frankly, Jon Turteltaub needs to stop making these kinds of movies.  He's already perfected the Nic Cage bland hero with the National Treasure movies and until someone is clamoring to remake Three Ninjas then it wouldn't hurt to branch out a bit.  But since he's Disney's go to director for all things action and bland, it looks like we'll be stuck with him for awhile.  Shame that the materials here are so compelling after awhile, and sad to think that they could have been put to way better use.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)
Directed by Jon Turteltaub.
Written by Matt Lopez, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and based on the poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel and Alfred Molina.

Posted by Andrew

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