The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Review by Jack Foley
THE Sorcerer’s Apprentice marks the seventh collaboration between Nicolas Cage and Jerry Bruckheimer, but sadly it’s not the luckiest for audiences.
Based on a Disney sketch of the same name that provided a memorable focal point of Disney’s classic Fantasia, the film is notable for some top-drawer special effects and a clutch of good performances, but is let down by an average plot that fails to find much magic.
Jon Turteltaub, who has previously worked with Cage and Bruckheimer on the National Treasure franchise, does his best to keep things moving along briskly, but while there’s always plenty going on, it struggles to escape a feeling of indifference.
The plot focuses on Cage’s Balthazar Blake, a one-time disciple of Merlin, who has spent more than a thousand years searching for ‘a prime meridian’ (or sorcerer’s apprentice), who can take over the responsibility of keeping the forces of evil at bay (as personified by Alfred Molina’s sneering villain).
But when this turns out to be nerdy New York physics student Dave Butler (Jay Baruchel), Balthazar finds he has his work cut out keeping Dave focused… particularly as he has his heart set on winning the girl of his dreams (Teresa Palmer’s Becky Barnes),
The ensuing action-adventure features set pieces involving one of New York’s most famous gargoyle’s coming alive as a flying eagle, mirrors that draw characters into reverse worlds, dragons running amok in Chinatown and a neat homage to the famous Mickey Mouse sequence that inspired it.
But as fun as such moments are, they only go so far in masking the tired, generic nature of the plot (which has been cobbled together by several writers, and which drops in one too many formula clichés), or the overlong nature of the movie as a whole.
Of the performances, Cage is good but clearly on auto-pilot… leaving his true fans to hanker for the odd edgy moment to rival the great work he’s recently done in Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant, while Molina makes for a suitably scenery-chewing villain.
But Baruchel fails to make a convincing transformation from likeable nerd to believable world-beater, Palmer is given too little to do except look good, and both Toby Kebell and Monica Bellucci are wasted in roles that aren’t sufficiently fleshed out.
Younger audiences will probably dig the action-heavy focus, while marvelling at the effects, which possess a Bruckheimer backed sheen (a car chase involving mirrors is particularly effective). While movie geeks will snigger at a few in-jokes (Star Wars especially), and enjoy the broom-stick moment, which is genuinely inventive.
But for a film built around the wonder of magic, Turteltaub and company fail to make things as spellbinding as they should. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t terrible, merely work-manlike, which may dent its potential for franchise spinning.
Running time: 108mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 6, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
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