The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Alice Krige, Jake Cherry. (2010, PG, 121 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 16, 2010
Magic is the one thing in very short supply in this modern-day sorcery tale. Cage teams up with the director of his National Treasure movies to mine for another family-friendly adventure story, but the territory they cover has already been stripped to near-death by others. Oh, but for an alchemist who might turn this second-rate bauble into a real gemstone. Merlin is, indeed, conjured in the film’s opening minutes, which provide a quick flurry of preamble that is supposed to explain why the sorcerer Balthazar (Cage) is in New York City and has spent the last millennium (and a few centuries more) searching for the Prime Merlinian – a gifted individual, who will have the power to break free Balthazar’s sorceress love, Veronica (Bellucci), from the curse that causes her to reside inside a nesting doll with the evil Morgana (Krige), who wishes to enslave the world. Or something like that. In the year 2000, young Dave Stutler (Cherry) wanders into Balthazar’s Arcana Cabana while on a class field trip, and the sorcerer realizes that the child is the Prime Merlinian when a tacky-looking ring transubstantiates on the boy’s finger. But the real plot activator unleashed on that day is Morgana’s sorcerer accomplice, Maxim Horvath (Molina), who emerges from a swarm of cockroaches to begin laying the groundwork for Morgana’s return. Years later, Dave (Baruchel) has grown up into an NYU physics nerd and reunites with Balthazar, who gives him a crash course in sorcery spells (which seem to take much less time to master than a physics degree). Filmed in New York, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice makes good use of some city landmarks, though, on a more mystical plane, the film’s magic tricks do little to dazzle the eye. Cage, as always, has a certain way with a phrase or inflection, but on the whole, his performance is a serviceable outing that lacks real spark. Baruchel adds some color as the ordinary guy with quips at the ready as he discovers his sorcerer within. He also finds that magic charms are good for wooing the love of his life (Palmer). Despite the same title, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice shares neither the poetry of Goethe’s original stanzas nor their plot, which were more faithfully transformed into the wordless “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Disney’s classic Fantasia, during which Mickey Mouse dances with a broom. If there were any brooms in Disney’s new Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they would have to be used to sweep this tired dreck to the curb.