Every couple of years Nicolas Cage stars in a project just right for him. In between, he plays characters wholly unsuitable for his acting style and appearance. The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Disney's latest attempt to turn an existing property into a viable franchise, is one of those movies, but Cage's presence isn't its only problem.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a live-action version of a segment from Disney's Fantasia. You know, that cartoon where Mickey Mouse plays a sorcerer's apprentice and all the mops go haywire. In this 2010 version, Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon) stars as Dave, a nerdy physics major who discovers that he has magic powers. Under the tutelage of ancient sorcerer Balthazar Blake, who looks and acts a lot like an uninterested Nicolas Cage, he learns to harness his powers amidst a battle with psycho-villain Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). He also goes out of his league to land super sexy Becky Barnes (Teresa Palmer).
Baruchel, typically an awkwardly entertaining actor, stands his ground well enough, even if he's the last person I'd choose to headline an action movie. Even a family-oriented action movie such as this. He evokes a few laughs and manages to dig up some chemistry with Palmer, who, in the real world, would certainly be out of his league. Thankfully, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is better than Baruchel's other big starring vehicle She's Out of My League, but that's not saying much.
Unfortunately, the movie is still wholly inadequate. It's not terrible and it's an easy watch, but The Sorcerer's Apprentice is dumb, bloated and uninteresting more often than not. Children who aren't frightened by dangerous dragons and bad guys that form out of thousands of cockroaches might find it enjoyable, but it lacks the proper blend of exciting action and witty humor you'd expect from a title like this. Pirates of the Caribbean it is not.
Cage was presumably cast as the sorcerer because Jon Turteltaub, who did the National Treasure movies, directed the movie. Cage, I've concluded, should never do a movie again where it's required that his hair be long and stringy. He's just the wrong fit for the role.
The bigger problem is that the picture meanders aimlessly with a screenplay unable to handle the goods. The movie doesn't treat magic as something mystical or to be discovered; it's just there. It doesn't build in a way to spark people's imaginations, especially those of younger viewers. The movie bounces between action and comedy scenes but unsuccessfully merges the genres together. When the action is done, it reverts to scenes largely unrelated with the overall plot, destroying any suspense or excitement built up to that point. The relationship between Baruchel and Palmer, while okay, is largely filler; instead of driving the picture forward, it holds it back.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is neither very funny nor exciting, despite some large action pieces and goofy sequences. Individual scenes are fine, but assembled together it is inconsistent and uninteresting. Young teenage boys may find something to like, but for the rest of us it's an overpriced bust.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on November 30, 2010. The Blu-Ray combo pack contains a DVD copy of the film as well as several short but well-made bonus features that correspond with the quality expected of Disney. Besides an in-depth making-of featurette, the Blu-Ray features examine all aspects of the film from the visual effects to the live-action set pieces and everything in between. Other features include deleted scenes, bloopers and a look at other elements of the film, including the use of Nicolas Cage's classic car and wolf puppies. Yes, wolf puppies.
The movie isn't very good, but at least the Blu-Ray is more interesting.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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