Take the title of John Turteltaub’s (National Treasure) The Sorcerer’s Apprentice as literally as you can. In other words, don’t go expecting to see much of Nicolas Cage (Kick-Ass) — not that you’ll miss him because, at best, his performance is as phoned-in (and phony) as you’ll ever witness from the hard-up actor (heard about his money troubles, have you?). No, this is about 98% worth of Dopey Dave, heir apparent to the most powerful of sorcerers. Yadda, yadda, yadda…
When we first meet him, 10-year-old Dave (Jake Cherry, Night at the Museum 2) gets sucked into the world of sorcery, is determined to be a chosen disciple (via an animated dragon ring), and is witness to a brief re-birth of two ancient warring wizards — Balthazar (Cage) and the evil Horvath (Alfred Molina, Prince of Persia) — only to end up the laughing stock of the entire city (funny… I thought NYC was BIG!) after what appears to be a concocted, psychotic wig-out (yes, let’s make fun of mental disorders). Double-time it to present day (10 years later), and Dave (now played by Jay Baruchel, How to Train Your Dragon) hasn’t exactly grown out of his malaise. Although an obviously brilliant college student — studying the application of Nikola Tesla’s high-voltage coil (oh come on… you’ve already forgotten the days of Physical Science class in high school?) — he doesn’t have much of a social life (due to the unfortunate event a decade prior). But wouldn’t you know it? Balthazar is re-freed (after his required prison time) — but then so is Horvath — and becomes Dave’s mentor in the ways of Merlin’s magic, especially since Balthazar still holds to the idea that Dave is meant for greatness (what’s called “The Prime Merlinian”, if I heard it correctly). Aside from a few run-ins with Horvath and his new apprentice Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell, Prince of Persia), Dave seems to be well on his way to fulfilling his destiny, to mention nothing of wooing the girl — his former elementary school classmate, Becky (Teresa Palmer, Bedtime Stories) — thru a pretty cool light-and-music show to the tune of his electrical experimental prowess.
And it’s at this point in the film that I started to get half-way interested in what was going on. HOWEVER… this is also the point at which the filmmakers decided it’d be the perfect time to work in the original short story told as part of Fantasia — yep, it’s apprentice Mickey Mouse (AKA Dave), magical mops, and a flood that nearly destroys Balthazar’s lab before his return. And, ultimately, this is where every bit of interest I had gathered by then completely dispersed — washed away by the self-cleaning sponges, brooms, and rags. Yes, it wouldn’t really be Disney’s Apprentice without at least alluding to Mickey’s watery plight, but was it worth it when you completely ruin the mood of a story just starting to get its feet under itself for the sake of modernizing a classic tale? I think not.
Anyway, there’s a whole other part of the plot I haven’t even touched on, but it’s, frankly, not worth the key-strokes, other than to say it involves Balthazar, his beloved sorceress partner Veronica (Monica Bellucci, Shoot ‘Em Up), and the worst of worst Morgana (Alice Krige, Star Trek: First Contact), who Balthazar and Veronica have fought several hundreds of years to keep bottled up (think Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series). Krige and Bellucci hardly share enough screen-time (and Krige is down-right unrecognizable) to get any sort of credit, so it seems pretty pointless to have included either of them or their characters; yes, what a waste. The real fun — if there’s any to be had here — is Dave and Balthazar fighting off Horvath, along with, granted, some very nice, impact-felt F/X that make those of The Last Airbender look pretty silly by comparison. The rest of the time is spent bored by Baruchel’s “aw garsh” nerd schtick that feels like nothing more than a retread of every other character he’s ever played (and he’s made a small fortune off of the same act), Cage’s ultra-weak, looks-uninterested turn (perhaps if he’d had more time in front of the camera, he could have reached at least National Treasure territory), and Molina’s tired preppy-villain performance; he practically saved Prince of Persia, but he’s just another going-thru-the-motions prop here.
What had great potential for a franchise — and the very last after-credits scene indicates there will be one — instead is really nothing to be proud of where Disney is concerned. Hard to believe that the same studio that brought us STILL the best movie of the year — Toy Story 3 — sacked us in the gut with this poor excuse for family fantasy entertainment.
Note from the editor: I always say “to each their own” when it comes to film reviews, but I did want to note that I (much to my own surprise) rather enjoyed THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE. I actually found Cage rather endearing, and the action scenes fun and frenetic. All in all I though the film was a step above the NATIONAL TREASURE movies, which I did not care for. Seems like Steve and I differ greatly on this one, but make you own judgement, and tell us what you think in the comments. – Mark Walters