STARRING Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina, Jay Baruchel, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Toby Kebbell DIRECTED BY Jon Turteltaub SCREENPLAY Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Matt Lopez MPAA RATING Rated PG RUNNING TIME NA DISTRIBUTED BY Walt Disney Pictures
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" Review
I must confess to a current state of disappointment with the American movie going public, courtesy of the undeserved box-office receipts of one airbending M. Night Shyamalan film.
It's not that I believe film critics, including this one, to always be correct. Yet, even the usual quote whores (You know who you are!) stayed away from praising the simply godawful The Last Airbender. Still, the American public's dependable ADD style of movie viewing garnered the film much more attention than it has rightly deserved.
So, what to think about the latest Walt Disney release, The Sorcerer's Apprentice?
This is the Nicolas cage you love. While virtually everything about this Nicolas Cage starrer is a paint-by-numbers summer action flick, the entertainment value is immensely higher than The Last Airbender and, assuming you don't worry yourself with comprehensive character development and cohesive plot development, there's enough fun to be had here that Disney may find themselves with a fresh franchise depending largely upon the adventurous spirit of opening weekend audiences who have to choose between this film and Christopher Nolan's Inception.
Nicolas Cage is Balthazar, a good magician who has held the forces of evil at bay for centuries after Merlin (James A. Stephens) banishes an evil witch, Morgana Le Fay (Alice Krige), and the equally evil Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar is awaiting the arrival of the Prime Merlinian, a magician who will be able to banish the dastardly duo forever lest they should find a way to escape their captivity and wreak havoc on humanity. Into this picture arrives Dave (Jay Baruchel), whom Balthazar first eyes at 10-years-old and believes may very well prove to be the Prime Merlinian.
Don't worry. You don't really have to remember any of the details, which also include a side story involving the lovely Becky (Teresa Palmer).
The Sorcerer's Apprentice isn't about the details or the story or the characters. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is about the use, actually over-use of CGI, and the many ways it can be used to make this Disney flick a larger-than-life experience for Cage's larger than life personality.
Strangely enough, much of the time it actually works here as Dave's journey towards becoming Prime Merlinian doesn't go quite as smoothly as Balthazar might hope and Cage, rather wisely, underplays Balthazar who is usually to be found amidst extraordinary circumstances anyway. Had Cage himself gone over-the-top, The Sorcerer's Apprentice would have likely spiraled out of control and into oblivion. Instead, Cage possesses an innate ability to simply remain still within the eye of the storm with a sort of gleam in his eye and what could be hokey and horrid (ie, The Last Airbender) becomes refreshingly fun despite its abundant excess.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice has virtually everything you've come to know and love from an escapist Nicolas Cage action flick, and while director John Turteltaub keeps the entire affair going far too quickly, far too dark and for far too long, enough of the film entertains to be able to offer it at least a moderate recommendation. If only for the joy of seeing Cage and Toby Kebbell, a rather fearless actor who has never quite gotten the attention he deserves, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is an entertaining view. Alfred Molina isn't given much to do, but Molina reading the telephone book is more entertaining than many films.
Jay Baruchel, who shined recently in She's Out of My League, proves to nicely complement Cage with the duo playing out as a sort of comic book, sci-fi mad scientist meets bookish nerd.
I'll let you guess which is which.
Turteltaub manages to infuse the film with enough of that usual Disney feeling, giving The Sorcerer's Apprentice a rather goofy, always likable charm and a genuinely appealing romance between Dave and Becky that grounds the film with a nice, if understated, humanity amidst the CGI chaos.
Tech credits are fine across the board, though it should be noted that The Sorcerer's Apprentice is one of the few films where the CGI truly does feel excessive and, at times, distracts from enjoyment of the film. While these characters aren't well developed, they are likable and too often they simply aren't allowed to shine themselves. Trevor Rabin's original score is appropriately larger than life, while Bojan Bazelli's camera work certainly captures the magic even if the scenes themselves are too often a tad dark to truly appreciate the magic.
While The Sorcerer's Apprentice isn't nearly as enchanted as Enchanted or quite the treasure of National Treasure, it features yet another memorable Nicolas Cage character and enough moments of cinematic CGI joy to please fans of the usual summer fare and is infinitely more rewarding than M. Night's forgettable flick.