Screen Rant's Paul Young Reviews The Sorcerer's Apprentice
It’s really not that big of a surprise to me that I walked out of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice screening completely entertained after enjoying every minute of the film. To date, I have enjoyed everything that Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Turteltaub, and Nicholas Cage work on together for Disney, which consists of both National Treasure films.
In fact, if you enjoyed both of those previous films then there is no reason why you shouldn’t also enjoy this one. The formula for storytelling has remained pretty much the same and just like it did before, it works magic (see what I did there?).
The movie opens some time in the Medieval Age, in the castle of the legendary Arthurian wizard Merlin. With an overly heavy-handed and drawn out voiceover, we are told that Merlin has three apprentices: Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci), who are trying to protect Merlin and his dangerous spell - generically titled "The Rising" - from falling into the hands of the evil sorceress Morgana (Alice Krige).
As we already know from the trailers, Horvath turns against his aged master and helps Morgana steal the spell and kill Merlin. In the process of trying to fight off and capture Morgana, Veronica performs a “Soul Merging” spell to trap them together in one body. In the process, Veronica’s soul becomes entangled with Morgana’s and Balthazar has to trap them both in a nesting doll to protect the world from Morgana ever using The Rising spell.
Balthazar then sets off on a centuries-long quest to hunt down dangerous Morganian sorcerers all over the world, trapping each in the subsequently larger levels of the nesting doll. At the same time he is also looking for the "Prime Merlinian," who Merlin said is the only person who will be able to defeat Morgana and her magic, should she ever return.
After centuries of hopeful meetings with children who are potential contenders don’t pan out, Balthazar finally meets 10 year old Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry and later Jay Baruchel) by pure chance (or is it?), immediately recognizes his natural ability for sorcery and offers him an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, Dave is a bit of a klutz and sets Horvath free; the evil sorcerer picks up right where he left off in a major battle with Balthazar, while trying to free Morgana. After another 10-year-long trapping (and some rather impressive CGI) both sorcerers are freed once again and the hunt for the nesting doll trap starts again.
I don’t want to give away the whole movie because it was a lot of fun to watch, but just like any family friendly Disney film, the good guys win in the end.
There were several things I liked about this film: the visual effects were crazy-good, and while the story was predictable (but enjoyable), the acting was above par. Yes, it’s true: Nicolas Cage could be starting some sort of good acting chain with his performances in Kick Ass and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. He’s a bit zany but driven in his cause to find his apprentice and he pulls off the sometimes subtle humor very well. There is nothing bad to say about Alfred Molina’s performance because he’s just as good here as he was in his previous roles - like his role as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2, Molina has the ability to play a very good bad guy with enough depth to keep the character from becoming one-dimensional, while at the same time not going so deep that he overshadows the rest of the film.
Monica Bellucci is given little to no lines but she sure looks pretty on screen - and Alice Krige plays Morgana as the over-the-top, “bent on destroying the world as we know it,” evil sorceress that one might expect.
While I liked Jay Baruchel’s performance, it didn’t really strike me as a high note in his career - and I think it’s because he is starting to play every character with the same mannerisms. Robert De Niro, John Malkovich and Al Pacino all have the same problem (if you can call it that). Whenever you see them on screen playing a character, it’s De Niro, Malkovich and Pacino playing a character and not a character on screen being played by them.
Baruchel is quickly developing that same problem, except all of his characters so far have been sort of mousy, hesitant and borderline annoying.
The standout performance for me was Toby Kebbel (Rocknrolla) as Drake Stone, Horvath’s apprentice. His young, flamboyant, cocksure magician was a mixture of Liberace, David Blaine and a mega-rock star all tossed together to create this über-magician full of wit. He was a joy to watch.
I think Disney really passed up an opportunity to destroy The Last Airbender in theaters over the July 4th weekend, because honestly, families didn’t have much to choose from in the way of good family-friendly action films and this film would have been a much-appreciated option.
Bottom line: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice should be right up your alley if you are in the mood for an enjoyable action/adventure film that isn’t animated.