The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Fantasia in New York

         
 

14 July 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Less fantastic and more a slump. The opening scenes of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a blitz: a 740 A.D. Britain clash between Merlin, Morgana and Balthazar (Nicolas Cage plays the latter). The voice-over exposition is laid over gracelessly as good and evil battle it out. Jumping ahead to the year 2000, a ten year old boy named Dave Stutler stumbles into a magic and antique shop where he meets Balthazar who has survived many centuries. Following Stutler’s klutziness, he unleashes evil in the form of Horvath (Alfred Molina). This leads to a fire and brimstone battle where good and evil get sucked into a doll-like container. Years later, Stutler grows up into a socially awkward young man (Jay Baruchel, who else?) who is caught between several responsibilities.

Once Horvath escapes from the container the fate of the world is at stake. Stutler is just an unassuming physics student in love with Becky, played by Teresa Palmer who is blonde, kind and easy to look at. Stutler is just as big a dweeb as ever – the overlong T-shirt as an undergarment to his cheap zip-up sweater is no help – but he is easily convinced by Balthazar’s visit that a conquest between good and evil is preeminent. Stutler is assistant, then apprentice, and soon learning the ways of magic. The movie’s idea of magic is lots of fireball and plasma discharges, and in other ways, the levitation and flying steel horse shots.

As for Cage’s attire, he is donned in a black trenchcoat and has obtrusive long, greasy hair. For many years now, Cage has been channeling Jimmy Stewart in a majority of his roles, which by this point, can hardly be met with surprise (“Knowing,” “Next,” “The Family Man,” “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, “City of Angels,” should I go on?) This time you can witness Cage channeling, a little bit, Gene Wilder’s caricature of Willy Wonka. He’s just a little greasier and with more stubble. Baruchel, by the way, is exactly the guy you expect, the “She’s Out of My League” guy stuck in maximum dweeb ticks. Molina (“Spiderman 2”) is doing nothing surprising as the villain as we would expect from him, but he’s still a stuffy and pompous hoot.

Some of the set pieces include a colorful conflict in Chinatown amidst beautiful red lanterns. Other sets get by with just enough imagination. In one ticklish sequence, the filmmakers pay homage to the “Fantasia” mop scene, but it goes on too long and messy. The music score is a pulsating “Dark Knight” clone. The cinematography has a shimmering finish to it. The visual effects have a liquid morphing quality, particularly, a car chase where the metal elements themselves change before our eyes.

Yet the movie has the same repetitive set-up over and over. Balthazar finds Horvath and they duke it out with plasma magic, they beat each other into mirrors that absorb their spirits, they break out again… etc. Or Horvath finds Balthazar and wreaks vengeance, or Horvath gets his apprentice Drake Stone (Toby Kebell, eurotrash) to attack Balthazar and Stutler. Eventually Monica Bellucci rises from the genie’s bottle, and, poof… a standard Hollywood conclusion. In terms of plotting, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” doesn’t glide along as much as bump along.

109 Minutes. Rated PG.

FAMILY FILM / MINDLESS FUN / SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIE

Film Cousins: “Fantasia” (1940); “The Neverending Story” (1984);  “Big Trouble in Little China” (1986); “Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief” (2010).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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