Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice"

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Directed by Jon Turteltaub, written by Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard, starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, and Alfred Molina - Rated PG

The Kurgan isn't pure evil; sometimes he likes PG-rated stuff like this.

I am a Nicolas Cage fan through and through. That is why when I came across The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I didn’t think twice about whether or not I would check it out. The film, loosely based on the mop scene from Fantasia, didn’t really sound like something I would like. But then I saw the trailer, which featured decent effects and Cage with ridiculous hair…count me in.

I mentioned that the film is loosely based on the scene from Fantasia because the mop scene is really the only connection. I might add that you should at least check out the live action version of that classic scene; I thought it was great. This movie takes the idea of the bumbling apprentice from that scene and adds a slightly complicated story to it.

The story involves the most famous sorcerer of all, Merlin, and his three apprentices: Balthazar (Cage), Veronica (Monica Bellucci), and Horvath (Alfred Molina). Horvath turns evil and sides with Morgana (Alice Krige) to take down Merlin. Balthazar is able to capture Horvath and Morgana (though Morgana inhabits Veronica’s body) in a nesting doll contraption called the Grimhold. The only person who can truly stop Morgana is the Prime Merlinian, who Balthazar spends his life searching for. Oh, and at some point, the fate of the entire world comes into play.

Okay, now that might seem like a convoluted plot and at first, it was. It’s mainly due to all the weird names: Horvath, Merlinian, Grimhold, etc. It’s easy to get past the goofy names, though. The problem is having to set up all that stuff in the first fifteen minutes. That opening is the film’s weakest moment. There is some very plain narration (enlivened a bit by an uncredited Ian McShane) and too much happens too quickly.

The bloated opening is necessary, though. The film needed to get to the aforementioned Prime Merlinian as soon as possible. The Merlinian, a physics dork named Dave, is played by Jay Baruchel, who absolutely steals the show from Cage. I’m not Baruchel’s biggest fan; his quirks in all the awkward characters he plays have always gotten on my nerves. That changed with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I suppose it’s because he’s playing opposite of Cage. Baruchel’s perpetual befuddlement works perfectly with Cage’s strange confidence. I would’ve liked Cage to ham it up and get a bit crazier, but he still does some solid, entertaining work here. It’s just that Baruchel brings most of the laughs with his reactions.

I genuinely liked the two heroes. Most of that is due to their chemistry and the comedy, but a bit of it is due to excellent casting in the villain department. Alfred Molina simply has a menacing look and he is very enjoyable as the evil sorcerer. It’s strange, because his last role was as the comedic relief in another Disney movie, Prince of Persia, and I absolutely hated him in it. I just think Molina was born to play villains.

Back to the comedy, I have to stress that this is a family friendly movie that provides plenty of innocent laughter. I’m usually not one for “family friendly” PG rated movies, but this one impressed me. I must say, it brought out the kid in me. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt anyone will guffaw while watching this, but there are some funny bits here and there (my favorites being the references to Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark).

This isn’t just a comedy, though. It’s a film about magic and whatnot and it would be a failure if the action and effects didn’t impress. This film looks pretty great. I never felt that the effects were cheesy, even though many of them are not lifelike…if that makes sense. Mainly this is because I bought into the world created in this film. If you buy into the world, then the effects and the magic will work for you. I didn’t need explanations or long scenes of spell-studying. I was okay with Dave’s training consisting of Balthazar saying, “Focus,” while Dave messed up, often with humorous results.

Director Jon Turteltaub (the “National Treasure” movies) handles all of the action very well. Filming action segments seems to be a dying art, but Turteltaub is sticking with the old fashioned methods of actually showing action. It’s all very easy to follow and it’s doubtful that you’ll ever wonder what is going on. That might seem like light praise, but when you compare it to the insanely fast editing of other action films, you can understand why simple is often better.

The film also moves at a nice, brisk pace, even though there’s quite a bit going on since there’s a love interest for Dave thrown into the mix early on. I actually found the love story convincing and there are even a few touching moments (playing the OneRepublic song, “Secrets,” on Tesla Coils stood out). The love story gets a bit rushed in the end, but it’s forgivable.

Looking back over what I’ve written, it seems that I was very surprised by this film and I guess that’s true. I was expecting something a bit childish and mediocre and what I got was a very enjoyable, innocent film. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has a rocky start, but it hits on all cylinders after that and it ends up being a fun experience that kids and adults can enjoy.


  1. great ratings system, love it.

  2. I waiting to watch The Sorcerer's Apprentice since last year, its made its Canadian debut on Thursday July 8th, as the opening film feature at the commencement of the 14th edition of the Montreal Fantasia Film Festival, hosted, as it has been for the past several years by Concordia University.

  3. its a cool movie.