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July 17, 2010
Review - " The Sorcerer's Apprentice "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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retain a kind of gentle goofiness and charm that isn’t often seen in Disney’s current live-action output.  Sorcerer’s Apprentice
ably fits into that same sensibility. Now, we’ve got Nicolas Cage playing a centuries old magician as if he were a shiftless
vagrant, searching for the ‘prime Merlinian’ with all the voracity of a hobo seeking out a hotdog.

Cage is Balthazar Blake, looking out for that prime Merlinian (when Cage mumbles, it sounds like prime meridian) that will be
prove to be the literal and spiritual descendent of the great wizard himself. Along the way, Blake has been fighting a war he’s
grown tired of, battling the acolytes of Morgana, the mythological sorceress that would put a right end to this existence if she
could find a way. Long ago, her servant, the turn-coat Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), defeated Merlin, only to be imprisoned
within a Russian Nesting doll that now resides within Blake’s magic shop.

Enter Baruchel’s Dave, a nerdy science brat who once met Balthazar when he was very young and has been spending the
years since trying to forget. Dave walks the straight and narrow of the logical and scientific, but when Blake come calling for
him, sure he’s the powerful wizard he’s been looking for, the young man is newly confronted with the world of the unseen and
the fantastic. As Dave follows through with the awkward ordeal of being tutored in the magical arts, accidentally setting
Horvath free in the process, he also discovers the power to do the things he’s never been able to before. Chiefly among
those is pursuing his childhood sweetheart, Becky (Teresa Palmer), who was pushed from his reach by the antics that
occured with Balthazar’s first visit. As often happens in films like this the whole thing comes down to a showdown with the fate
of the world at stake; a battle between Blake and Dave vs. Maxim and his apprentice, the garish and showy Drake Stone
(Toby Kebbell).

Apprentice relies on big, overwhelming set
pieces and eye-popping special effects. Some
of these are tiring, like the endless balls of
vibrant glowing light the heroes throw around,
and some are more interesting in conception
than execution.

I liked the way in which Blake and his
adversaries could manipulate and
metamorphize the real world around them.
In addition to the broomsticks, there’s also a
Chinese parade dragon that morphs into a
real fire-breathing menace and when Blake
requires its help, one of those steel eagles
flies right off the Chrysler building to chauffer
him around Manhattan. The problem is that
the cgi used to create them never makes
them sing in the way they seem intended to.
Obviously homaging the kind of kitschy wonder
Ray Harryhausen conjured with his stop-motion works, these creatures lack the soul of those hand-crafted effects.

Surprisingly it’s Jay Baruchel, and his chemistry with Cage and Palmer, that saves Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Baruchel, and his
lanky awkwardness, have been mostly used in the past for visual gags in raunchy or ridiculous comedies. Lately though, he’s
been proving effective as the normal thrust into a world of the fantastic. Both here and in How to Train Your Dragon he
perfectly embodies a guy who embraces the magical because it empowers him in ways the mundane real world never has.
Baruchel cements the oddness and quirk that Cage is bringing to Blake. If Apprentice works more as a breezy teen romance
than a big adventure it’s because Baruchel and the fresh-faced Palmer generate legitimate heart as the would-be couple
caught in the midst of apocalyptic events.

Although Monica Bellucci also shows up as the love interest that pushed apart Balthazar and Horvath, she doesn’t really
bring much to the table other than her stunning looks. The same is similarly true for Alice Krige, who is supposed to be the
big bad but can’t get the screentime necessary to make that happen. Alfred Molina is perfectly smirking and evil, yet in a
genteel sort of way, as Horvath. With sparking mischief in his eyes, and dread set upon his mustachioed face, he reminds of
Jonathan Pryce’s Mr. Dark in Disney’s most frightful feature, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Koebell lampoons Criss
Angel and his ilk as Drake Stone, and he’s doing a fine but thankless job with it.

In the end though, this is Cage and Baruchel’s show, and they give the audience a good time and seem to inately
understand the draw of films like this. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice might not fully transport us, but for a few hours, it does
manage to levitate us up and above our piddling real world troubles. Afterall, it’s the fate of the universe that’s at stake here.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer,
Monica Bellucci, Alice Krige

There is a scene in Jon Turteltaub’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ that
actually pays homage its animated namesake and captures the magic
promised in the title.  NYU physics student, and newly minted wizard,
Dave (Jay Baruchel) has lost control of an army of lively marching
broomsticks and they dash back and forth, causing a watery dilluge
to come crashing down around the mixed-up newbie. Barely
connected to the rest of the movie, the scene serves as little more
than a cute easter egg of a moment, evoking a frivolity and
imagination that doesn’t exist in the rest.  

The remainder of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t a loose reimagining
of the Fantasia short, but a high-impact special effects fest about
secret wizards battling it out in New York over – what else? – the fate
of the world. Where the script and the visuals fail, Baruchel and Cage
succeed, bringing a quirky oddball edge to their partnership and the
necessary enchantment to an otherwise pedestrian adventure outing.
The result isnt the mega-epic producer Jerry Bruckheimer was
probably hoping for, but it is a reasonably fun and welcome
throwback to the live-action Disney adventures of the 80’s.  

Do you remember those movies? Films like Cloak and Dagger, The
Watcher in the Woods,  and The Flight of the Navigator. None of
them were classics, and are easily dated by today’s standards, but all
The original 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' short
was a bit of Disney magic made at a time
when the studio was overflowing with it,
casting Mickey Mouse as a young student
overwhelmed by mops given a life of their
own, simultaneously creating an icon of
magical power and breathing new life into a
pretty terrific piece of classical music. This
version of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" boils
down to "The Karate Kid" meets "Harry
Potter," with maybe a dash of
"Ghostbusters" to keep it interesting. It’s
really not that big of a surprise to me that I
walked out of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
screening completely entertained after
enjoying every minute of the film. The
Sorcerer’s Apprentice should be right up
your alley if you are in the mood for an
enjoyable action/adventure family freindly
film that isn’t animated.