Released: Out now
Director: John Turteltaub
Screenwriter: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Matt Lopez
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina
Running Time: 111 mins
Jerry Bruckheimer is one of the guilty parties responsible for leading cinema down the road of high-concept blockbuster-dom, contributing to the birth of the mutated event film we are so familiar with today. Disney’s name, and back catalogue, is synonymous with tradition and family values. It should come as no surprise, then, that the combining of them both – the Nic Cage-starring fantasy adventure The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – is as bland as this.
Cage plays Balthazar Blake, a wizard and former contemporary of Merlin who is sworn to find the Prime Merlinian, the one person worthy of inheriting the famed wizard’s powers. Why? Because evil sorcerers Horvath and Morgana are locked up, Superman II-style, in a nesting doll and only this Prime Merlinian can defend the world against them. Meeting Balthazar in modern day Manhattan, it’s safe to say that his search has not been going well, until he meets cool yet bookish NYC science student Dave (Baruchel).
Imagined, no doubt, as a contemporary spin on the titular segment in Disney’s Fantasia in which Mickey gets into a spot of bother with mops, buckets and water, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is flashy and CG-laden. It is also as uninspired and uninvolving as they come, and desperately formulaic too – our geeky science hero pines over a blonde fellow student who doesn’t notice him. Heck, in Hollywood tradition, the baddies are British (Alfred Molina’s sorcerer Horvath and Toby Kebbell’s mockney sidekick Drake Stone).
In a post-Potter world where fantasy flicks are ten a-penny, there is simply nothing here to make Apprentice stand out from the crowd: the plotting is simple and without surprise (‘sorcerers in New York’ is the limited concept), the effects ample but never spectacular, and the action scenes perfunctory but never adrenaline-charged. We now expect characters to be more than just cogs in a story, but the sorcerers and sorcerers-to-be here fall into one of two camps – they’re either good or bad.
That’s not to say that there is nothing to enjoy. Jay Baruchel is engaging as Dave, and there is some smirksome banter with Balthazar. A homage to Mickey’s Fantasia misfortune will raise a wry smile but the problem is that the kids for whom this is intended will have no idea what Fantastia is, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will not encourage them to find out.
Baruchel aside, there is little to excite in this below par fantasy. Audiences expect a little more.