The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Because I can read minds!

With the above, we get a Nicolas Cage gem to rival that of “Not the bees!” (which, despite its popularity, is not even featured in the final cut of The Wicker Man remake).

What we get with this film is a bit different.  Jon Turteltaub and Doug Miro’s (and six other writers’) reimagining of the Dukas poem, the Goethe ballad and the Fantasia short cartoon, is aimed at a strictly PG audience.  Only one scene is reminiscent of the older Disney film (the sorcerer’s apprentice animating mops and buckets to clean up his mess and the disastrous results that follow), and most of the humor is material I would have found hilarious as a ten year-old.  The film does have its charm, however.  Choosing Baruchel as the proverbial “chosen one” is somewhat inspired, as are several other characters.  Well, one other character: Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell), a secondary antagonist in a movie with way too many bad guys.  Kebbell gets to have fun with this role, parodying modern flash-artists who give illusionists a bad name (i.e. Criss Angel), and easily stealing the show.    Alfred Molina also stars as Horvath, the main baddie, who unfortunately remains fairly one-note throughout.  Par for the course in a film made for children.

But is it good for children?  I’m not sure.  Early on, Molina hurls a knife through a windshield and kills a guy.  Later, he murders a twelve year-old girl (albeit off screen).  I dug this stuff when I was younger, if not for anything but the laughs generated from annoying people getting theirs, but I’m curious as to what this onscreen behavior in a film with a very specific audience is advocating.  Sure, Molina plays the “evil” character, but everyone wants to play the “bad guys” in Hero Quest, don’t they?  Is Hero Quest even in print anymore?  Probably a rhetorical question.

Ultimately, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is clumsy film-making; the plot contains more holes than a Lorraine Swiss, the editing is choppy (as though the editors were rushed to shorten the film), and the characters are nothing more than the usual suspects in a film of this type – except Kebbell, who seems oddly out of place with his East-end accent and fourth-wall-breaking lines, including “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” (a throwback to the original Star Wars) which gets the film’s biggest laugh.  Despite all that, Cage plays his role with the usual enthusiasm and seriousness, and the audience can never once doubt that he at least finds great importance in this story’s action.

It’s a good time at the movies, with the obligatory post-credits hook for a sequel (which doesn’t quite make up for the amount of unresolved plot details).  Worth seeing with kids or good-humored friends?  Definitely.  I did have to shake my fist at the Product Placement Gods, however, when Cage brings to life a stone eagle perched atop the Chrysler building and flies it into the night…in four different scenes.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010); written by Doug Miro; directed by Jon Turteltaub; starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina and Toby Kebbell.

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