a critiQal film review The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Balthazar Blake (Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Baruchel) as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness.

567 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 50s)

When I first heard The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Nicolas Cage, was coming to theaters for the summer of 2010, I was a bit confused. I couldn’t quite see Nic replacing Mickey from the animated Fantasia (1940) short of the same name.

As it turns out, it’s more “loosely based” on that animated short. Nic is playing the sorcerer to Jay Baruchel’s apprentice. But, would Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure (2004)) be able to direct Nic to another winner? Or should Disney just have left the animated short alone?

Nicolas Cage has had a few off films as of late (Bangkok Dangerous (2008) among them). Thankfully, he seems to mesh well with the adventure films that Turtletaub is turning out, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is no different. Nic seems to be a good fit for the good wizard. His older, wiser sage persona fits well against Jay Baruchel’s stuttery newbie.

Alfred Molina, who wasn’t so impressive when playing a supervillain previously (Spider-Man 2 (2004)), turns out to be much better at it when Turtletaub is directing. With an aura of ancient ways about him and a sinister air, he plays the villain with a nonchalance that makes it look easy.

Jay Baruchel, playing the young apprentice, however, seems to take things a bit too far. With his voice cracking like he’s actually trying to imitate Mickey (or just hitting puberty), Baruchel plays Dave with the lowest self-image imaginable. It makes the viewer spend a lot of the film pitying him – and it makes Nic spend most of his time trying to coax this frightened weakling to stick around instead of running away. This works to a point. But, by the time Dave runs off for the umpteenth time, the viewer starts to get tired of his whining and wishes he’d just stay away.

The story fleshes out the animated short quite nicely. It gives the film a solid background to build on (and adding Merlin into the history). It also sets up foes which are never seen in the short. Yes, it does still tie in an updated version of the famous mops/buckets/brooms dance. This back story – explained through a few too many flashbacks and speeches – gives the film a very solid footing to stand on. That makes The Sorcerer’s Apprentice more enjoyable to watch.

The special effects are outstanding and plentiful. While this is expected in a summer blockbuster by this point, it’s still amazing the sequences each film comes up with. For this film, we get: a giant metal bird; a large ox statue that comes to life; a dragon effigy come to life, and everything from plasma bolts to a look on the other side of the mirror. Even the relative little things, like turning a few wolves into pictures so they don’t get hit by a train, are very well done. The viewer won’t notice any flaws – whether the effects are filling the whole screen, or integrated in with the live action.

With a decent cast performing well, a storyline that creates a solid base then expands on it to include the memorable sequence from the animated short it’s loosely based on, to amazing special effects done without flaw, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a fun ride to take. All of Baruchel’s whining (and his poor emulation of Mickey Mouse) do damper that fun a bit, but the viewer should still enjoy themselves, nevertheless.

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