STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel,
Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Toby Kebbell
2010, 111 Minutes, Directed by:
is it about these large budget mainstream movies that encourage Nicolas Cage to
stay on a leash?
In The Sorcerer's Apprentice,
a movie minimally inspired by the Mickey Mouse segment in Fantasia (which
was inspired by Paul Dukas' musical piece which was in turn inspired by Goethe's
poem), Cage plays Balthazar, a great sorcerer who was one of the three, original
pupils of Merlin until the great wizard's defeat at the spells of Morgana le
Fay. This is the type of role Cage could ham up in his sleep, and yet, only a
few flashes of a mild injection of his craziness turn up: they are the startled
cries of one suddenly awoken from a nap . . .
At least the Cage of The
Sorcerer's Apprentice is making an attempt at oddball when his character
clearly is one instead of coasting on the sense of actor's entitlement that has
accompanied his roles in other popular movies ("Ok, I read my lines, so where's
the check?"). The movie doesn't rise and fall exclusively on his energy, but
when Cage is on, he certainly does complement the throwaway story.
That story is summed up as
roughly as possible in the prologue, a catch-up to the drama of the world of
real magicians, written in six-eight time and played at presto tempo. Merlin was
good. Morgana was bad. Balthazar, Horvath (Alfred Molina), and Victoria (Monica
Bellucci in what amounts to a cameo) were once Merlin's apprentices. Horvath
turned to the dark side, and Victoria sacrificed her body to trap Morgana's
spirit within it.
Centuries have passed, and
Horvath and other Morganians are trapped the prison of a matryoshka doll.
Balthazar has waited all this time for the prime Merlinian, a direct descendant
of Merlin who can defeat the already defeated Morgana. That sorcerer is Dave
(Jay Baruchel), who stumbled into Balthazar's magic shop as a pre-teen and now
has multiple complexes as a result of releasing Horvath back into the world,
watching Balthazar and his nemesis duel, seeing them disappear into an urn, and,
of course, having his schoolmates see him with wet pants. He tries to tell them
it's just water, but the only option is to transfer to a new school and wait ten
years for Balthazar and Horvath to return to complete and give him a reason for
"Stuck in that unfortunate movie limbo of being too innocuous for its
own good . . ."
The movie has a somewhat novel
concept for the existence of magic.
While a normal person only uses
ten percent of the brain, a sorcerer's uses the whole. That ability allows a
sorcerer to manipulate the molecules of matter. Make them move faster, and they
ignite. Where the energy for plasma balls created between a sorcerer's palms
comes from is left open to ignore. "Is it science or magic," Dave, the physics
nerd with a Tesla coil in his old-subway-stop laboratory, asks his new teacher.
"Both," Balthazar replies, and if one considers alchemy a legitimate science and
an astrologer a groundbreaking researcher, then, sure the explanation works.
There are a few other moments
of inspiration scattered throughout, but they only brighten the dull, familiar
proceedings for an instant. A car chase through the streets of New York has
Horvath turning his vehicle into a taxi to blend in with the surroundings, and
Balthazar morphs his old Rolls-Royce into a sports car to keep up when his enemy
does the same. Apart of these chameleonic touches and a brief adventure inside a
mirror, the sequence is just your average car chase with director Jon Turteltaub
hitting the usual beats.
Cage is occasionally wicked as
Balthazar, Baruchel takes a vocal cue from Jerry Lewis every so often, and
Molina is solidly malevolent in a typical sort of way. Toby Kebbell plays a
Morganian who has sold out his sorcery to become a famous magician, and it's a
character that's funny in his introduction but never quite achieves a comic end
(More than another ally of Horvath who's given a name straight from The
Crucible and then vanishes). Teresa Palmer is Dave's love interest, a girl
he had a crush on in grade school and now stalks ("Not in the creepy way," he
sort of assures her), and while the role is extraneous, Palmer makes it so in a
particularly bland way.
Even the homage to
the animated short that serves as the movie's namesake, in which Dave must clean
up the lab before his study date, is dreary. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is
stuck in that unfortunate movie limbo of being too innocuous for its own good .