If you’re in the mood for a light summer movie then you really can’t do any better than The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. No, really. It’s so light it’s practically nothing but hot air. It’s a blustery and frivolous piece, full of sound and fury (and mediocre special effects), all signifying nothing.
There’s a car chase sequence in which Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) and Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel) are hot on the heels of the chief bad guy, Maxim Horvath (the always intense Alfred Molina). Horvath sends out a smoke screen before tricking Blake’s car into a bewitched mirror, trapping him in a reversed world — where the main obstacle is words spelled backwards — but only for a moment before he goes through another mirror to get back in the right world.
As I watched this, all I could think was how that bit symbolized and summed up the whole ridiculous mess: the movie is nothing but smoke and mirrors. It’s a big magic trick, a sham, nothing but diversion from what’s really happening. I don’t have a problem with the entertainment value, mind you, if you have a thing for ridiculous headwear, and by that I’m referring to both Cage’s king-sized fedora and his hair plugs. If that doesn’t do it for you then you can always enjoy how he chews through every scene like a rat trapped in a wet cardboard box. Molina is always well cast whenever malevolence is required, so he provides a nice counterpoint to the star’s over-the-top traits.
The story, if it can be summarized, is about how Stutler is predestined as the Prime Merlinian, the last and greatest apprentice to Merlin. It was foretold that one day he would aid Blake in the final destruction of Morgana (Alice Krige), the great wizard’s nemesis. She wants to cast the Rising spell to raise the dead and enslave all of humanity. Yawn. If we discussed the full plot it would read like one big Dungeons & Dragons nonsensical jargon-filled pile of words written by a couple of guys who have never heard of subtlety or the concept that ‘less is more.’ It’s a corny script, directed by a hack, and acted by a cornball thespian who also co-produced it because he pitched the idea years ago. Cage probably saw The Pirates of the Caribbean and thought it would be way cool if somehow they adapted another classic Disney property — the Mickey Mouse animated short from Fantasia — into something involving, y’know, real wizards. Baruchel even has to slum his way through a scene where he conjures dancing mops and brooms, only to find himself in a stony basement workshop filled with water and mayhem. Oh wow! I did not see that coming!
Director Turteltaub once had a major hit in 2004 with Cage’s National Treasure, another Disney flick that came off like the patriotic American’s version of The Da Vinci Code. Lately, Cage just comes across like he’s the bandleader of his own parade to pay off a couple million in back taxes. In the last six years he’s been in 18 movies, only two of which were at all interesting. I think he might just have too much on his mind to care that much about his acting. Baruchel, on the other hand, has promise. His comedic timing and delivery is pretty good for a rising star but he can and likely will fall into the same typecasting quagmire from which Michael Cera is never going to emerge. Molina, of course, is this film’s highlight. Interestingly, Turteltaub once got cast in a high school production of Our Town, beating out a young Cage. Maybe this is a sign that Cage should take up directing.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a lesson in superficial frivolity; an exercise in how to fritter away a summer; a sappy, insipid and mundane waste of two hours. It has its moments, much like a magic show by David Copperfield. It entertains you and saddens you for feeling duped and stupid at the same time. How do these guys make your money disappear? Smoke and mirrors, my friend, except here the smoke is glycerine-based and the mirrors are computer generated.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci and Alice Krige
Now playing at: Grandin Theatres, Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton, and Scotiabank Theatre