The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Grade: C –
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, and Toby Kebbell
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Nicholas Cage, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Jon Turteltaub reteam for more National Treasure-style gobbledygook in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a kiddie action-fantasy flick beaten into immediate antiquity by a blur of stupefying, subpar FX and no less than five credited screenwriters.
Cage plays Balthazar, a master sorcerer once mentored by Merlin, locked in a 1,000-year race against the nefarious and natty Horvath (Alfred Molina) – his ex-best friend but now arch-nemesis – to locate mankind’s savior in the form of some made-up something called the “Prime Merlinian” before Horvath can release the spirit of the evil witch Morgana (Alice Krige) from her grimhold prison.
Balthazar’s prodigious protégé turns out to be Dave (Jay Baruchel), a college tech-head and another in a long line of movie geeks – most recently Baruchel himself in She’s Out of My League – who manage to woo a gorgeous girl who is, well, out of his league. Here, it’s Becky (Teresa Palmer), an NYU classmate and blond beauty who inexplicably takes as a shine to Dave’s newfound ability to foil muggers and his obsession with making music using plasma streams and Tesla coils in his deserted subway station-cum-basement. Yep, you read that right.
The dialogue is so vapid and the plot so joyless that even the otherwise gonzo sight of Cage wearing funny hats, shooting plasma balls, and riding art deco griffins isn’t enough to summon a pleasantly kitschy spell. Baruchel’s miscasting – voice, gait, mannerisms, everything – becomes apparent whenever Dave must don the hero’s cloak. Molina is the best part of a bad movie for the second time this summer (see also Prince of Persia).
The storyline was originally conceived by Cage (danger alert…) as a live-action homage to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment in Fantasia. Unfortunately, the only noticeable send-up of the 1940 Disney classic is when Dave conjures a roomful of dancing mops and brooms, a tonally out-of-place and nonsensical scene even in a movie with millennium-old wizards and fire-breathing dragons rampaging through Chinatown.
For a movie about magic, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice contains precious little of its own.