"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" Movie Review (2010)

7/18/2010 Posted by Admin

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice"

Movie Review (2010)

Directed by Jon Turteltaub, Written by Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Matt Lopez, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, 103 minutes, Rated PG

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is very reminiscent of the movies Disney used to make. They made very simple but captivating films that would quite basically follow a single character in a journey from naivete and doubt to self-worth and heroism, of course with plenty of silly talking animals and goofy songs along the way. "Apprentice" may not be as good as those films, like "The Lion King," "Aladdin," or "Pinocchio," but the fact that it at the very least aspires to that level of storytelling is enough of a reason to admire it more than some of Disney's other recent output.

The first important thing to note about "Apprentice" is that, like the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films and "The Haunted Mansion," this film takes from a more classic and traditional Disney idea, in this case the short Mickey Mouse feature of the same name from Disney's animated classical music film "Fantasia." In that short, Mickey, a sorcerer's apprentice in this particular film, takes his master's hat and uses its magic to bring a bunch of mops to life so that he doesn't have to do housecleaning himself. The mops develop minds of their own, havoc ensues, etc.

Not something you would expect would translate to a full, live-action feature length film too well. And you'd be right. So, the wealth of people tasked with writing this film pretty much tell their own story, with that basic Mickey short getting reduced to a gag in the middle of the film and the rest getting filled with typical Arthurian (or maybe Harry Potter-ian?) plotting and occasionally inventive action sequences.

There's a lot going on, but basically the film's protagonist, New Yorker Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), becomes the apprentice of a century-old sorcerer with the excellent name Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), and the two of them are forced to go head-to-head with Blake's old nemesis and fellow student of Merlin, Horvath (Alfred Molina) and his army of Morgan la Fey worshippers.

Evidently the several writers never heard that joke about camels being horses designed by a committee. There are a lot of ideas and plot strands floating around, but none of them get enough focus to really stick with you. There is some interesting stuff regarding magic's relation to physics; a few cool subplots regarding other magicians Balthazar has encountered throughout his life; and what seems to be the emotional center of the film, Dave's growth and realization that he is capable of more simply by believing in himself, is all handled so sloppily that any possibility for emotional resonance is lost entirely by the time it's all thrown out the window in favor of a super crazy (but somehow underwhelming) final battle.

The film is at its best when it's at its simplest. The training scenes between Dave and Balthazar, the romance subplot and the action scenes make up most of the meat of the film, and for the most part, they're quite engaging and amusing.

Baruchel has been better--or perhaps he's just given this performance so many times that it seems as if he's done better--but they really couldn't have picked a better actor for the role. He's awkward but charming, and he pulls off the vulnerable but underappreciated character pretty well. Cage isn't likely to win many new supporters with his performance, but he suits the role and he's given a few opportunities to show off that crazy Nic Cage style the film sort of forces him to hold in. And Molina--well, if you've seen "Spider-Man 2," you know Molina can do a convincing one-note villain. He's just fine here. He probably had a lot of fun with it.

I suppose "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is more frustrating than it is bad--there's a lot of potential here, and if the writing had been more inspired, this could have been a strong comeback for both Cage and for Disney in general (not that it won't make plenty of cash). It's a finer effort than many recent Disney features, so I guess there's that. A passable, generally fun little fantasy.

Grade: C

View the trailer for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" below. What are your thoughts?

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