You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Overblown fantasy finds Disney trying to spin another tentpole from the 'National Treasure' trio.

Balthazar - Nicolas Cage Dave Stutler - Jay Baruchel Maxim Horvath - Alfred Molina Becky Barnes - Teresa Palmer Veronica - Monica Bellucci Drake Stone - Toby Kebbell Morgana - Alice Krige Young Dave - Jake Cherry Bennet - Omar Benson Miller Sun Lok - Gregory Woo Merlin - James A. Stephens

A noisy, f/x-spewing cauldron of a movie, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” bears little resemblance to Disney’s classic 1940 “Fantasia” segment, much less Goethe’s original poem. The tale of a modern-day 20-year-old studying at the hands of an Arthurian wizard, this visually overblown fantasy finds the Mouse House trying to spin another family-friendly tentpole from the “National Treasure” trio of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, star Nicolas Cage and helmer Jon Turteltaub. Pic could charm the B.O. for a spell but, like Disney/Bruckheimer’s other summer entry, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” seems destined to work most of its magic overseas.

A blur of opening exposition details the 740 A.D. clash between the great Merlin (James A. Stephens) and the evil Morgana Le Fay (Alice Krige), who is eventually trapped, along with her followers, in a Russian-doll-like container that’s carefully guarded over the next several centuries by Merlin’s protege Balthazar (Cage, also credited as an exec producer).

Pic then jumps ahead to the year 2000, as dweeby 10-year-old Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) is lured into a Manhattan curio shop. There, he encounters Balthazar, who predicts the boy will be a great wizard, perhaps the great wizard — a conclusion that seems all the more improbable when Dave clumsily unleashes Balthazar’s nemesis, Horvath (Alfred Molina), from his magical imprisonment. This kicks off the first of many CG-laden combat sequences in which Turteltaub and his visual effects artists use hurtling fireballs and plasma blasts to systematically lay waste to the film’s sets. When the smoke clears, Horvath and Balthazar have vanished, and Dave, unable to prove his crazy story to his peers, becomes a local laughingstock.

Ten years later, Dave (now Jay Baruchel) is a physics student trying to forget the past and win over cute blonde coed Becky (Teresa Palmer), unaware that the warring wizards are about to make their return. As Horvath plots with punkish minion Drake (Toby Kebbell) to restore Morgana to full power, Balthazar makes Dave his apprentice, hoping to teach the gangly kid enough hocus pocus to save the world from destruction.

This gloomy prospect doesn’t seem to bother Dave, who’s generally less interested in casting spells than in spending time with Becky (Palmer sure is cute), a disconnect that proves crippling to the film’s dramatic involvement. The desire to be able to perform real magic is something almost every young kid can relate to at one point or another, and the creative failure of “Apprentice” is that it never attempts to stir a childlike sense of wonder at the possibilities of the world before us, nor to forge identification with Dave as he grasps his own otherworldly potential.

The magic here feels machine-made and depressingly state-of-the-art; apart from the obligatory sequence paying homage to the symphonic poem made famous in “Fantasia” (complete with brooms, buckets and Paul Dukas’ familiar music), its sole purpose is to deliver the sort of action-oriented pyrotechnic displays that will presumably dazzle an audience into submission. When Balthazar and Horvath engage in a car chase in supernaturally souped-up vehicles, the lack of imagination on offer is genuinely dispiriting.

There are glimmers of invention in the script (by Matt Lopez, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard, from a story by Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Lopez), such as the intriguing notion that magic is merely a super-accelerated form of science that can be harnessed by those with sufficient brainpower. The teacher-apprentice bond is conceived along familiar believe-in-yourself lines, and Cage and Baruchel, both actors of essentially comic temperament, aren’t given the quality of zingers that would elevate their characters’ relationship above half-hearted shtick or inspirational boilerplate.

Staying within his geeky, wisecracking comfort zone, Baruchel seems to be channeling the sweet, lovelorn loser he played in “She’s Out of My League,” while Cage, perhaps wisely avoiding the British accent his character rightly should have, strides through the film wearing a trenchcoat and a look of unblinking let’s-get-through-this concentration. Molina, never a bad choice to play the villain, delivers the most effective performance, the gravelly, menacing purr of his voice a natural complement to his dapper duds.

Pic was shot in Gotham, allowing for plenty of show-stopping visual highlights ranging from a colorful Chinatown parade to a showdown in Bowling Green; production design is nifty, especially the underground lab/lair where Dave and Balthazar do their thing. Apart from the aforementioned sequence, Dukas’ compositions are absent from Trevor Rabin’s standard score, bearing out the impression of a “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” that has borrowed a title and a concept, but little magic, from its source.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Production: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films presentation of a Saturn Films/Broken Road production. Produced by Bruckheimer. Executive producers, Todd Garner, Nicolas Cage, Norman Golightly, Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Barry Waldman. Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Screenplay, Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard; screen story, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Matt Lopez.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Deluxe domestic prints, Technicolor international prints, widescreen), Bojan Bazelli; editor, William Goldenberg; music, Trevor Rabin; production designer, Naomi Shohan; supervising art director, David Lazan; art director, David Swayze; set decorator, George Detitta Jr.; costume designer, Michael Kaplan; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Tod A. Maitland; supervising sound editor, George Watters II; visual effects supervisor, John Nelson; visual effects, Asylum, Double Negative, One of Us, Ghost VFX, Rising Sun Pictures, Method; stunt coordinator, George Marshall Ruge; associate producer, Pat Sandston; assistant director, Geoff Hansen; second unit director, Ruge; casting, Ronna Kress. Reviewed at El Capitan Theater, Hollywood, July 8, 2010. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: Balthazar - Nicolas Cage Dave Stutler - Jay Baruchel Maxim Horvath - Alfred Molina Becky Barnes - Teresa Palmer Veronica - Monica Bellucci Drake Stone - Toby Kebbell Morgana - Alice Krige Young Dave - Jake Cherry Bennet - Omar Benson Miller Sun Lok - Gregory Woo Merlin - James A. Stephens

More Film

  • 'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at

    'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at Topic Studios

    Topic Studios (“Leave No Trace”) has bought rights to Rachel Lyon’s debut novel “Self-Portrait With Boy” and plans to develop the project as a feature film. Lyon will adapt her own novel. John Lyons (“Boogie Nights”), who recently signed a first-look deal with Topic Studios, has come on board to produce. The story is set [...]

  • Ventana Sur Animation Panel Focuses On

    Ricardo Cortes Vera Talks Audience-Driven Content at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Ricardo Cortes Vera, commissioning editor for Señal Colombia, introduced the audience-driven children’s content his company is renowned for in hopes of encouraging a crowd of animators into submitting their own work to the channel. He did so in a keynote address given Tuesday afternoon in Buenos Aires, at the Animation! strand [...]

  • Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin

    Berlin Film Festival: New Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin, Denis Cote in Competition

    New films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin and Denis Cote are among the titles that will compete for the Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. German director Akin’s “Der Goldene Handschuh” (“The Golden Glove”) and French helmer Ozon’s “Grâce à dieu” (“By the Grace of God”) were announced by the Berlinale in its [...]

  • Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Film

    Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Title 'The Ground Beneath My Feet'

    Picture Tree Intl. is on board as the sales agent for “The Ground Beneath My Feet” (Der Boden Unter Den Füssen), which the Berlin Film Festival revealed Thursday will be in its main competition section. The Austrian drama, directed by Marie Kreutzer, stars Valerie Pachner, Mavie Hörbiger and Pia Hierzegger. The film centers on high-powered [...]

  • Katherine Jerkovic on FiGa Films-Sold Debut

    Ventana Sur: Katherine Jerkovic On Personal References, Icebergs, and Whispered Truths

    Canada-born with roots in Uruguay, Croatia and Argentina, Katherine Jerkovic split her childhood between Belgium and Uruguay. At 18, she settled in Montreal and studied film at Concordia University. After a few shorts (“The Winter’s Keeper”) and some video-installations, she has finished her first feature, “Roads in February.” The film is a co-production between Nicolas [...]

  • 1844 Ent, Distrib Films To Release

    1844 Ent. Acquires North America on Alejandro Fadel’s ‘Murder Me, Monster’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — 1844 Entertainment, an emerging player on the U.S. distribution scene, has acquired North American rights to Argentine writer-director Alejandro Fadel’s “Muere monstruo muere” (“Murder Me, Monster”), sold by The Match Factory.      The deal was negotiated by 1844 Entertainment’s Tommaso Cerqueglini, The Match Factory’s Michael Weber and Thania Dimitrakopoulou.   As [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content