Friday, May 6, 2011

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (2010)

Starring Jay Baruchel, Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina
Written by Matt Lopez, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Rated PG - Fantasy violence
Running Time: 102 minutes

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo) [Blu-ray]This movie could easily have been an unmitigated disaster.  And yet... somehow... it's not.  I fully expected to hate every minute of this movie, considering what it had going all against it (including Nicolas Cage as a long-haired wizard ... oh and basing the premise of an entire movie on one scene from a decades-old Mickey Mouse cartoon).  But instead, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is a fun, light-hearted adventure.

David (Jay Baruchel) is a physics student in New York dealing with years of ridicule and embarrassment after a disastrous school field trip where he first met the wizard Balthazar (Nicolas Cage) and ran back to his teacher claiming to have seen fires and magical creatures.  He's dealt with transferring to a different school and going to therapy, and now, after ten years, Balthazar has returned and told David that he's some sort of prophesied chosen one, foretold to defeat the evil Morgana (Alice Krige), who was imprisoned centuries earlier by Merlin and is now close to being freed by her minions.

Balthazar begins to train David in the ways of being a sorcerer so that the two of them can fight Horvath (Alfred Molina) an evil wizard intent on finding the Grimhold, the magical nesting doll that serves as a prison for Morgana.  Meanwhile, David has reconnected with his childhood crush, Becky (Teresa Palmer), and actually manages to score a date.  Balthazar worries that his infatuation will get in the way of their training, and doom the world entirely. 

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is actually a pretty funny adventure film.  Baruchel and Cage have fine chemistry, bolstered by a script that tosses them some pretty witty lines to bounce off each other.  Nicolas Cage puts his semi-insane streak of late to good use in this one, as being slightly unhinged is a key part of his character (and is referenced in the script when David asks Balthazar, "Are you insane?" and Balthazar replies with an "only a little" hand-gesture). 

Alfred Molina gets to have a lot of fun chewing scenery as Horvath, and he's great at bringing both menace and fun to the role.  As a PG-rated film, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" rarely feels truly dire, though the majority of the film takes place at night and some of the violence can feel a little brutal (people are often thrown hard into walls and cars and the like), so the fact that Horvath doesn't always seem like a particularly threatening villain is totally fine.  Instead, Molina is just plain entertaining to watch.

If there's a weak point in the cast, it's Teresa Palmer as Becky.  She does okay, but her character doesn't really require a lot of work.  The focus here is definitely on Cage, Baruchel and Molina, and they're entertaining enough that Palmer doesn't really matter.

There's fun to be had in "Sorcerer's Apprentice," to be sure.  It won't be considered any great classic, but it's solidly crafted and entertaining.  Fun dialogue and entertaining performances are supported by some cool action sequences that all come together to make "Sorcerer's Apprentice" a surprising adaptation of the old "Fantasia" sequence.  Indeed, that short is prominently referenced in a scene where David attempts to clean his lab space before Becky arrives for a date.  He uses his magical powers to bring mops and buckets to life to wash the place, and it all gets entirely out of hand.

So if you're in the mood for a decent, popcorn modern wizards film, go ahead and check out "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."