Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Nicoholas Cage, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbel
Rated: PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is the kind of film I would have been utterly obsessed with when I was twelve. It’s about a smart outcast of a kid who is destined to be the most powerful sorcerer in the world, the only one who can defeat the evil Morgan Le Fey before she takes over the world with an army of undead. It’s not terribly original (though its blending of science and magic made my geek heart happy) but it’s a lot of fun and has some very spiffy special effects.
The film opens with a quick history of magic, one which M. Night Shyamalan should take a good look at if he ever wants to learn to do exposition well, before moving into the life of Dave (Jay Baruchel), our hero. As a ten-year-old, he stumbled into a magic shop and was identified by its owner, Balthazar (Nicholas Cage), as the Prime Merlinian — but then he managed to release Balthazar’s nemesis, Horvath (Alfred Molina), from a magical prison. Balthazar and Horvath both got trapped in a magic urn, and Dave fled.
Ten years later, the urn frees the two sorcerers, both of whom set out to find Dave. Our hero is now a gifted physics student working with Tesla coils and not at all interested in finding out that what he’d thought was a childhood hallucination is actually real. Before long, though, Balthazar has shown him enough magic to get him interested and he officially becomes Balthazar’s apprentice — and helper in the fight against Horvath.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is efficient, not wasting screentime on unnecessary subplots. Everything either shows us more about the characters and their world, moves the plot forward, or both. It’s rather refreshing. Baruchel makes an engaging protagonist, and is believable both as a brilliant physics-student-turned-sorcerer and as a nerdy loser. Cage has moved out of the action star role and into the intimidating mentor role for this film, and it suits him. After years of playing the hero, Cage seems to have a great time being slightly out of the protagonist spotlight.
Of course, kids movies stand or fall on their villains, and Horvath does not disappoint. He’s creepy (he first appears as a giant pile of cockroaches), a snappy dresser, and very smooth. Molina is pitch-perfect in the role, especially in his scenes with Toby Kebbell as Horvath’s flashy, annoying sidekick, Drake.
The magic in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is impressive during the fight scenes and provides some amusement during Dave’s training too. A Chinese parade dragon turns into a real dragon, sorcerers throw fireballs, there’s even a gigantic steel eagle that comes to life from the side of a skyscraper and carries people around. None of the effects are particularly mind-blowing, but they are well-done and will make you gasp if you’ve let the movie sink its hooks into you.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is not a great film. It’s a couple hours of fun aimed at kids and at adults who love kids movies about magic. If you saw the previews and thought it looked like a good time, you should definitely check it out — for once the previews for a movie successfully captured its spirit — but if you don’t find a sorcerer-in-training accidentally smacking himself with his own plasma balls to be funny, stay away.