The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
A film coming out the same weekend as a Christopher Nolan flick has to have a group of executives kicking themselves as to getting royally screwed on a release date after THE DARK KNIGHT made the hand-over-fist returns it did back in 2008. But Jerry Bruckheimer is not the man to shy away from such a challenge, a man that has produced countless blockbuster hits throughout the years, including recent goldmines in PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN and even using Nicolas Cage to make a ridiculous conceit like NATIONAL TREASURE into a franchise that puts butts in the seats and even has a third film in development. So he gets the director from that franchise, Jon Turteltaub, grabs Nic Cage, and gives him another role in which he can showcase crazy hair in this weekend’s THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE. And while it has gotten lost in the shuffle on the weekend of Nolan’s INCEPTION, Turtletaub, Cage and Bruckheimer still know how to turn out entertaining, family-friendly, eye candy with the lovable schlub Jay Baruchel rounding out the cast to add an element of humor that provides lighter moments than Chris Nolan’s heavy mindbender. In other words, it’s a good movie that didn’t try to compete on the same level as its main competitor, but rather decided to appeal to those audiences left out.
THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE begins with what seems like a long backstory on the origin of sorcery, explaining the history of Merlin, the epitome of power and wisdom in the field, and his three apprentice’s Balthasar (Nic Cage), Veronica (Monica Belucci) and Horvath (Alfred Molina). Merlin, in 740 A.D., takes on an evil sorceress, Morgana, and though she kills Merlin thanks to turning Horvath against him, Balthasar is able to trap her and Horvath into a Russian-looking nesting doll along with other evil sorcerer’s throughout countless centuries. But they are only incarcerated, not destroyed. Merlin stated before his death that the only one that could kill Morgana was the Prime Merlinian, a young child who could be trained as a sorcerer, found through a magical ring. The child is found in the year 2000, with young David Stuttler at age 10 stumbling across Balthasar and then accidentally releasing Horvath from the doll only to have them both trapped again for 10 years in a mystical urn. As the 10 years is up, Balthasar wishes to find Dave (Jay Baruchel) to train him, Horvath wishes to find the doll to release Morgana, and Dave just wants to win over his old sweetheart Becky Barnes (Teresa Palmer) with his love of physics. Strewn throughout are fantastical action sequences and transformations with humor and levity, despite the gravity of the consequences, as Dave has to learn sorcery and kill Morgana before she can raise an army of the undead to enslave or destroy the human race.
Jay Baruchel plays the same guy we saw in SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE, but with cleaner language and sorcery powers, but then he’s good at it, it fits him and I don’t mind seeing him in the role again. Nic Cage does well and doesn’t go overboard in the sorcerer’s role, he is serious when he needs to be, has fun when he can, and the relationship between him and Dave comes naturally. Alfred Molina has fun as a villain, as we’ve seen in SPIDER-MAN 2, and his sidekick Drake Stone (played as a Criss Angel magician by Toby Kebbel) provides some really funny moments from the villain’s side.
The main flaw with the film – which is light, family fun – is its insistence on giving Dave a romantic story with Becky Barnes, despite the fact that he knows he has to work to help save the world. Other than that, the story and action works well, there’s an aside in homage to FANTASIA that is funny for a minute but then kind of out of place, and the actors all do well in the confines of this construct. It’s an entertaining film that knows what it is and delivers as such. Bruckheimer knows this business.