- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
uper producer Jerry Bruckheimer has spent the better part of the last decade creating some of Disney’s biggest family-friendly blockbusters, but his track record isn’t completely flawless. The massive flop that was “Prince of Persia” notwithstanding, Bruckheimer has built a pretty successful career around what is essentially the same generic adventure movie, only with different characters and settings. His latest team-up with “National Treasure” director Jon Turteltaub isn’t any different, but although it follows the same basic formula of Bruckheimer's other productions, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a fun slice of escapist entertainment that’s teeming with the kind of creativity Disney used to be famous for.
The film opens in 740 AD where Merlin is killed by an evil sorceress named Morgana (Alice Krige) after one of his own apprentices, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), turns on him. But when his other students – Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) – fight off Horvath and trap Morgana in a magical Russian nesting doll called the Grimhold, Merlin grants Balthazar immortality so that he may track down the prime Merlinian, a descendant of the powerful sorcerer and the only one capable of defeating Morgana. Fast-forward to 2010 and Balthazar has finally found his man in Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a geeky physics student who’s recruited by Balthazar to become his apprentice and accept his true calling as a sorcerer before Horvath can free Morgana from the Grimhold and destroy the world.
Inspired by the celebrated short from Disney’s animated classic, “Fantasia” – a sequence that is playfully recreated in the film – “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” doesn’t really offer too many surprises that fans of Bruckheimer’s other movies haven’t seen before, but it’s an entertaining ride nonetheless. Though it takes a while for the main adventure to begin – along with the aforementioned Arthurian prologue, there’s another prologue set in 2000 that details Dave’s first encounter with Balthazar – by the time that Baruchel’s character is finally introduced, the movie becomes less about the muddled back story and more about the characters and the spectacle of their magical abilities.
Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel make a great team, with Cage playing the straight man to perfection as the down-to-business sorcerer who might just be a little nutty in the head after spending the last millennium searching for the Chosen One. It’s certainly not the actor’s best work in recent years (that’s a toss-up between “Kick-Ass” and “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans”), but it does suggest that maybe his dark days of hamming it up for a paycheck are finally behind him. Alfred Molina is also solid as Cage’s rival, but he’s constantly upstaged by his own apprentice (played by Toby Kebbell), a Criss Angel-like celebrity magician who looks as ridiculous as he sounds.
The real highlight of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” isn’t its talented cast, however, but the magic that each character uses throughout the movie. While the special effects aren’t exactly visually stunning (though if there’s any film that could’ve made a case for employing 3D, this would be it), the film is incredibly inventive in the different ways it uses magic – from turning a Chinatown parade dragon into a real-life, fire-breathing beast to sending Balthazar and Jake into a mirror reality where the only way out is to jump through their reflection. It’s this childlike creativity that prevents “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from existing as just another generic Bruckheimer blockbuster, because while the story may not be very original, at least the magic within it is still, well, magic.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Disney’s Blu-ray release of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” offers a decent collection of production featurettes about filming on location in New York City (“Magic in the City”), bringing the magic to life (“The Science of Sorcery”), and the benefits of using practical and visual effects (“Making Magic Real”). There are also a few mini-featurettes on the film’s props, Toby Kebbell’s costumes, and Balthazar’s car (which actually belongs to Nicolas Cage), as well as deleted scenes, outtakes, and a DVD/digital copy of the film.