SORCERER'S APPRENTICE, THE
A sorcerer and his hapless apprentice are swept into the centre of an ancient conflict between good and evil. Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, 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. It'll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Bad karma: the Walt Disney studio has raided its own vault to cannibalise one of Walt's greatest and freshest movie moments. Paul Dukas' symphonic poem, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which accompanied the most famous sequence in Disney's Fantasia (1940 and in the 2000 remake) is borrowed here to match the title and to crudely replicate the original dance of the broomsticks - but in bad taste. The wit and charm are missing.
Likewise, the filmmakers kidnap the ancient sorcerer Merlin for their ends and hold him hostage to a situation that is close to parody - without the oversize humour. Merlin trusted three of his fellows with a great secret, but one of them turned bad and wants to destroy the world. She's a she. Why, we don't know. This silly premise is the basis for a story that builds a would-be epic house of cards, using big music and big stunts - but little ideas.
Derivative (borrowing from various movies) and shifting in tone from juvenile jokery to gee whiz sorcery, it lacks the magic that magic should generate, never sure whether it's a real adventure, a coming of age story, a romance or a fantasy; it's a brown blend of them all.
The film, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the man who knows not how to make a movie without going over the top, is more like a showreel for a digital effects post production house than a real movie. The problem with movies relying on magic these days is that digital work has inured us to visual magic on screen. Anything is possible in the hands of FX guys, so what's the difference? And where's the impact?
The story is rather tedious and the direction lacklustre; and the effects are so insistent that the film leaves us not so much wanting more but wanting less. Adolescents will enjoy most of the cool effects, but they become shallow exhibitionism.
With a story about super-sorcerers, anything is possible, at the flick of a wrist or the turn of the palm. This robs the film of natural dynamic tension, as the protagonists can all call upon superhuman powers to win their battles.
But there are a few fun moments, notwithstanding, and most of the performances are good enough, with Alfred Molina especially relishing his role as a bad old sorcerer in top hat and fur collared coat, a music hall villain for the screen.
Nicolas Cage brings his Kick Ass/National Treasure characters as a job lot in a rather unconvincing role as Balthazar, one of the three who managed to escape and is now fighting to save the world. He has to find the reincarnation of Merlin, the young man who is the only one who can stop the evil Morgana (Alice Krige) ... blah, blah blah.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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SORCERER'S APPRENTICE, THE (PG)
CAST: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Teresa Palmer, Alfred Molina, Monica Belucci, Toby Kebbell, Omar Benson Miller,
PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer
DIRECTOR: Jon Turtletaub
SCRIPT: Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bojan Bazelli
EDITOR: William Goldenberg
MUSIC: Trevor Rabin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Naomi Shohan
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 9, 2010