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Nothing Remotely Spellbinding About The Sorcerer's Apprentice

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2010 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
Nothing Remotely Spellbinding About <i>The Sorcerer's Apprentice</i>

DVD Release Date:  November 30, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  July 14, 2010
Rating:  PG (for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language)
Genre:  Drama, Adventure
Run Time:  111 min.
Director:  Jon Turteltaub
Actors:  Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Jake Cherry, James A. Stephens, Peyton List

As the Disney creative team already knows, every once in a while a really terrible idea is ultimately the stuff of pure cinematic gold.

After all, who could've predicted that a big-budget movie inspired by a Disney theme park ride (a.k.a. 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) would've been such a big hit? But thanks to that charismatic performance from everyone's favorite oddball Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, the sarcastic, rum-loving pirate, Disney had an unexpected hit franchise to its credit.

Perhaps hoping to conjure up some more Disney magic from an equally unlikely source, namely those nine iconic minutes from Fantasia that involved Mickey Mouse, dancing brooms and some spells gone seriously awry, The Sorcerer's Apprentice unfortunately shares more in common with renowned flops like 2000's Mission to Mars and 2003's The Haunted Mansion than Pirates of the Caribbean in the ol' quality department.

Even with action movie guru Jerry Bruckheimer's name attached to the project, there's nothing remotely spellbinding about The Sorcerer's Apprentice. In fact, it's a classic case of a clunky, horribly clichéd story further destroyed by a series of outlandish stunts and less-than-superb CGI trickery. Simply put, it's a veritable snooze-fest that carries on for nearly two hours.

Starring Nicolas Cage (Knowing, National Treasure), yet another horrible hairpiece and nerdy comedy everyman Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder), The Sorcerer's Apprentice fails to enchant the viewer right from the start. Lacking anything resembling a hook, there's an ominous voiceover that lays out the plot basics in a drawn-out prologue set in 740 A.D.

Introducing us to a sorcerer named Balthazar (Cage), one of the late Merlin the magician's three chosen ones, we discover that Merlin's arch nemesis, Morgana le Fay has been trapped in a Russian doll prison called the Grimhold. Turns out, if Morgana is ever released (something that good wizard-gone-bad Horvath, played by Alfred Molina, is hoping and fighting for), the world as we know it will be destroyed forever.

However, if Balthazar has anything to say about it, that isn't going to happen. And if he's really successful, he'll also be reunited with his long-lost amour Veronica (Monica Belluci), who has also been trapped in captivity for centuries. In the meantime, he must track down and give Merlin's magical dragon ring to an apprentice who'll play a key role in helping Balthazar accomplish the mission.

Seeming to borrow a page straight from Exodus 3 when God calls and commissions the under-qualified Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, a weak physics geek like Dave hardly seems to be the right guy for the job. Of course, the parallels to Moses officially end there when Balthazar and Dave have a rather fortuitous meeting when the 10-year-old accidentally wanders into an antiques shop during a school field trip.

Scared off by the idea of begin chosen for such an odd life as a sorcerer-in-training, Dave forgets all about that fateful day in his pre-teen years. But for whatever reason, he doesn't throw away the ring that Balthazar gave him.

Now fast-forwarding 10 years, Dave is in college at NYU and unfortunately, not much has really changed in his life. He still loves science and has a crush on the same blonde, Becky (Teresa Palmer) that he pined for in 4th grade. And it's the lack of excitement in his life, not to mention the desire to do something greater, that gives Dave a motivation to "embrace his destiny" when he and Balthazar eventually cross paths again.

Instead of walking away from a strange new life of running away from fire-breathing dragons and casting spells on mechanical bulls with a vengeance, Dave accepts Balthazar's challenge to find the urn and destroy it before the world falls to pieces.

Like many Disney flicks before it and the Harry Potter films of the past decade, spells and incantations (used for both good and evil) play a central role in the proceedings. And simply because of that, families may choose to skip seeing The Sorcerer's Apprentice altogether.

But even if these decidedly supernatural elements don't bother other viewers in light of the fantasy genre, there's still nothing particularly redemptive about the movie. While a noble quality like Dave's inability to tell a lie convincingly is definitely praiseworthy, the lackluster story, not to mention the barrage of overblown special effects, simply don't make The Sorcerer's Apprentice worth the price of admission.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Nerdy Dave is encouraged to find a date by hanging with some fellow coeds—drunk, of course.

  • Language/Profanity:  A couple of exclamations of God's name plus dam- and he-- are both used once. There's a bit of scatological humor, too, involving a dog with tummy issues, a dog urinating in a lab and bolts of lightning that hit people in the groin.

  • Sex/Nudity:  No sex or nudity, just a couple of passionate kisses exchanged between Balthazar and Victoria and Dave and Becky.

  • Violence:  The bulk of the PG rating is because of the stylized (albeit mostly bloodless) fantasy violence. Some of the particularly intense scenes (especially the closing battle involving Morgana) are far too scary for anyone under 8. Magicians use their powers for good and evil in a multitude of chaotic situations. Characters are stabbed, electrocuted, melted and chased by a mechanical bull, a dragon, wolves and flaming cars. Characters who've been dead for thousands of years are also reanimated back to life, which is also a slightly gory process. One character materializes from a giant swarm of bugs, another from a black, murky substance.

  • Magic:  Given that the movie is titled The Sorcerer's Apprentice, it probably comes as no surprise that spells and incantations play a significant role in the plot. Like many Disney films of past and present, the magical powers are used for both good and evil. When explaining how magic works to Dave, Balthazar says that sorcery is the channeling of the brain's unused power, which is roughly 90%. By manipulating molecules and the energy nearby, that produces the "illusion." Magic is basically linked to physics in Balthazar's mind, something that makes sense to a science geek like Dave, but Balthazar also admits that a little "magic"—not science—is involved, too. When the bad guys are using their magic, there are often pentagrams nearby that lead you to believe that something supernatural is involved. At the end of the movie, there's an attempted resurrection of the dead.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.