By JP Chapman | July 13, 2010
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Writers: Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Matt Lopez, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (poem)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci
I should have known I was in for an “adventurous” film-going experience based on the audience present at the screening for Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. When the first 5 rows consist of babies and the row behind me is made up of toddlers that talk endlessly about popcorn and peeing; I should have realized that I wasn’t going to be a member of this film’s “target market”. Nevertheless, Disney has been faithful to provide adults with enjoyable nuggets in a number of their previous kids’ movies…so I held out hope. Connected to all of this, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have something of a soft spot for Nicolas Cage (one that grows softer and softer as his hairline recedes more and more). However, even my steadfast love for the Cage-ster couldn’t overcome the fact that The Sorcerer’s Apprenctice is probably one of the poorest excuses for a “summer blockbuster” that I’ve ever seen. Filled with predictable writing, laughable acting, and terrible dialogue — this was no “magical” experience.
I can’t really go into a recap of the storyline of Sorcerer’s Apprentice without first drawing attention to the two primary sorcerer’s names: Balthazar Black (Nicolas Cage) and Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) *Deep breath* wow! The film begins with a back-story montage that shows Balthazar, Maxim, and Balthazar’s true love Veronica (Monica Bellucci) working hand in hand in the middle ages as the one and only Merlin’s apprentices. However; their team-work is cut short via a betrayal by Maxim as he joins forces with Morgana (Alice Krige): the most evil and powerful witch in the world. Merlin is killed by the evil duo, but Morgana is stopped as Veronica joins their spirits and allows Balthazar to lock both her and Morgana away in one of those stupid Russian doll within doll things with creepy paintings on it (aka nesting dolls). Balthazar swears vengeance and what-not, but not before Merlin can give him his awesome dragon ring. Merlin tells Nicolas Cage that he is now supposed to go and show the ring to little boys around the world, and that “he’ll know” when his journey is over (kind of creepy in a Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC way). Balthazar fights the most evil sorcerer’s in the world and locks them all in his creepy little Russian doll, which is gradually covered in worse and worse creepy drawings.
Hundreds of years pass, until one day an awkward little Jewish boy from New York stumbles into Balthazar’s exciting, but devoid of customers, antique store. Balthazar, like every good creepy sorcerer that likes to befriend little boys, swishes his cape and offers to give the boy his dragon ring “if it likes him”. Surprisingly enough, the ring does “like” the boy, who is revealed to be Dave Stutler (later played by Jay Baruchel). For some reason, Balthazar sees this as a good time to leave little Dave alone, and shuffles off to look at his 500 year old keepsakes. Meanwhile, Dave manages to find the creepy Russian doll and releases Maxim from his slumber. Balthazar runs back in surprised that you can’t trust little boys in 1990’s New York and fights Maxim into a poorly painted vase that locks both he and Maxim within it for 10 years (complete with horrendously painted Nicolas Cage/Alfred Molina pictures on the outside). Meanwhile, little Dave pees his pants and starts crying like all the babies in the theatre I was in. 10 years later the two are freed and race to find pee-pants Davy and his creepy Russian doll. After a close call with Maxim, Balthazar saves Dave and informs him that he is the prime-Merlinian-Merlin’s heir apparent and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Dave must be trained by Balthazar to fight and destroy Morgana once she is freed by Maxim. Thus, Jay Baruchel becomes…The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (the end).
When I first saw the previews for Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I had some hope. Despite the ridicule I suffer from the rest of the SLSS staff, I’m a big fan of the National Treasure franchise and had high hopes that Nicolas Cage would be infusing some of the fun energy of those films into a new franchise. I even got excited that Jay Baruchel was going to be in this with him. Somehow in the midst of my excitement, I missed the commercials with mops coming alive and dancing a la Fantasia though. Had I seen them, I think I would have been a little more prepared for what faced me in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. As I mentioned in the intro to this review, this is a mess of a movie. The acting is terrible, the plot-line is laughable, and the dialogue is horrendous. I understand Jay Baruchel wanting to take a higher profile role, but cash has to be the only reason any other member of this cast took this film on (especially Nicolas Cage in light of his recent tax battles). Not only is this a played out story, but it’s also one that is executed much more poorly than any of its predecessors. Were I a kid, I may be able to have some fun with this movie—but even the toddlers behind me seemed more excited about popcorn and peeing than they were with most of the action on-screen. Jerry Bruckheimer should know better, but sadly The Sorcerer’s Apprentice leaves you with the same impression that a made for Disney Channel movie does. It’s a shallow imitation of other wizarding movies on the market (*cough* Harry Potter), and with little to no heart behind it. Take your kids to see Toy Story 3 instead. This is not Nicolas Cage’s finest hour.
*2 points for my hero’s awesome hair in this movie.