Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)
I guess we shouldn't be surprised by the fact that the spell to raise an army of the undead to conquer the living can be pulled right out of an apparently ordinary spell book, along with many other pages with many other spells on them, and that this book is kept in a wizard's ordinary library, with what seem to be plainly ordinary sorcery books.
Wouldn't such a spell deserve being kept in a vault deep under the earth to prevent the forces of wickedness from getting a hold of it? Apparently, the powerful and just Merlin didn't think that was necessary. But that is the bare-bones fact behind the plot of Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which follows more than 8 Disney shorts and scores of other spins-offs made from the foundation of the 1797 Goethe poem.
The film wastes no time in getting into the anatomy of the story it so hastily introduced with soundly impressive narration in the opening segment. Merlin had three exceptional apprentices, two good, Balthazar Blake and Veronica (Nicolas Cage and Monica Bellucci) and one evil, Horvath (Alfred Molina), who comes to follow the wicked Morgana la Fey (Alice Kridge) (sounds a bit too much like “Cruella de Ville,” if you ask me) who seeks to destroy the world with the forces of darkness. Merlin dies, but not before making Balthazar (Nicolas Cage) immortal until the chosen one is found who will bring Morgana to an end forever.
Blake lives over a thousand years before coming into contact with young Dave (Jake Cherry) who is to learn at his feet until he is ready to fulfill his destiny. Jay Baruchel, as older Dave, is a thought-to-be-disturbed kid who happens to become a physics genius and is the long-awaited “Prime Merlinian” (prime student of Merlin). NOTE: Please try to avoid the temptation to say over and over “prime meridian,” though you will be prompted to.
No one can deny that Nicholas Cage looks more intense with long hair. He could play Tarzan. Baruchel, our favorite over-privileged-looking, Jewish kid with a pipe-stem physique, still borders on monotone and looks weirder than a concentrating street wino when he focuses squinting-ly on his magic ring before casting spells. Bennet (Omar Benson Miller) is a token funny black guy who has a thankfully under-utilized role while Becky Barnes (Teresa Palmer) is Dave's eye-agreeing girlfriend.
The movie incorporates an intriguing if erroneous plot premise that will ring true with new agers. It's an old adage that is based off of humans using only 10% of their brains, which is false. It's the wizards who find a way to use more than 10% of their brains to do sorcery, so it is said. That's how the wizards are wizards and the witches are witches. The rest of us are just average. Since that stupid myth about only using 10% of our brains will apparently be around for a long time still, we should give credit for its incorporation on a level of entertainment value only and be done with it.
It does make for good science fiction, as does learning that a complete understanding of physics is to understand vibrations and how, by learning to envision vibrations and degrees of heat, we learn to manipulate magic. Balthazar gives tutorials, often while fighting, his chief advice being to wear geeky old man shoes. That's because modern rubber soles resist the electrical conductivity that fosters magical abilities.
The film does not resist the temptation to use loads of CGI to flavor the parts needed, and the special effects are fascinating and used where lots of showy magic is actually useful. This is far more gratifying than anything seen in Harry Potter and the lame Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Here, mirrors can be used as traps, vases can be eternal prisons, and a host of spells can be used to shoot lasers and disable an opponent in many ways. Add car chases to the mix and you have a downright exciting film.
Alfred Molina, as Horvath, was a poor choice. He seemed like a cross between Mr. Bean and Hitler with very few relatable goals or qualities. This is partly to be expected as here is an example of a borderline-cheesy production with star characters that don't blend in well with the recreated story, which tries hard to pay tribute to the dancing, cleaning mops and brooms of olden times you saw in Disney animation of the last century.
To its credit, The Sorcerer's Apprentice possesses a true-to-form Disney style of family-friendliness and a sense of old-fashioned fun that many viewers will not find wasted.
Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: PG (for fantasy action violence, some mildly rude humor, and some brief language)
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Summary: Master sorcerer Balthazar Blake recruits a seemingly everyday guy in his mission to defend New York City from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath.
Starring: Nicolas Cage "Balthazar Blake," Jay Baruchel "Dave," Alfred Molina "Maxim Horvath," Teresa Palmer "Becky Barnes," Toby Kebbell "Drake Stone," Omar Benson Miller "Bennet," Monica Bellucci "Veronica," Alice Krige "Morgana le Fay," Jake Cherry "Young Dave," James A. Stephens "Merlin"
Genre: Action / Adventure / Comedy / Drama / Fantasy