Directed By John Turtletaub
Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Alice Krige, Monica Bellucci, Teresa Palmer
Screenplay by Matt Lopez, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal very loosely based on the poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
There is a point just past half way of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice when the young protagonist, Dave Stutler, remembers that his ring controls the object that they are pursuing, which is in the car in front of them in a very loud and damaging car chase. So, naturally, he moves the object around and wreaks havoc for the bad guys they are chasing. By the time they make their next turn, he has stopped manipulating the object with at least 5 minutes left of crash, bang and boom.
Why do they drop this bit of logic when it would do them most good? The movie would have been a lot shorter, of course, if people in movies did things that made sense. Then there’s that special effects budget that needs to be taken advantage of. Tactics such as this is not necessarily poor screen-writing. For all we know, this thing has been re-drafted ad-nauseum, by a bunch of people we will never know or even hear of. It’s stuff like this, though, that makes a movie lose its watchability on the first view, much less the repeated viewings that Disney expects you to experience. It’s not just Disney that takes these shortcuts, but they have done it longest, back to the days of That Darn Cat! and even before. Logic be damned. You have to hit your marks.
The marketing of this movie was centered around Nicolas Cage, for somewhat obvious reasons. He has worked with Bruckheimer, Turtletaub and Disney many times now, and they are working on the third National Treasure for 2011. There is no small amount of irony here in the fact that for a movie called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, you see mainly the Sorcerer. They missed an opportunity, though, to concentrate on the apprentice, who is really the film’s primary asset: Jay Baruchel. Baruchel is on a hot streak now, with Tropic Thunder, She’s Out of My League and the classic How To Train Your Dragon, his talents are growing with each film. His charisma is sneaky and a little off-putting. Downplaying one’s gifts is not a unique tactic, but Baruchel has a bit more charm within his repertoire than others in his class. He floats through ridiculous dialogue effortlessly and makes it his own. If he can break free of these geek made good roles, he may have a pretty decent career.
For his part, Nicolas Cage is right at home. His banter is easy and unforced. He walks through each scene like he’s been there before and is planning on going back again. He is right at home with Bruckheimer, so it makes one wonder why he would waste his time making movies with other producers at this point in his career. That will leave him nice and rested the next time he wants to tackle more challenging material.
The special effects are on par with what you usually get from Disney, with a touch of Bruckheimer. That means they’re pretty good. The dragon scene is appropriately menacing, but the final scene with the Tesla effects are pretty sweet.
That leaves the script. No cliché is left unturned. Alfred Molina, as Horvath, is nothing more than someone to start with the upper hand, lose ground, gain and then disappear for a while. His apprentice is a nice take on the celebrity magicians of the day, but he has even less to do. Never is there a point where the outcome is in doubt, and while not a problem for a Disney movie, it is certainly not a real selling point. Alice Krige, as the main nemesis, always adds an element of menace. She’s got that deep-rooted evil face that scares the hell out of me since the first time I saw her in Ghost Story.
Turtletaub has a nice gentle touch that I have enjoyed since Phenomenon. He really treats his characters kindly, and this makes him a perfect Disney director. Problem is, even the bad guys are treated kindly here, and that prevents them from seeming, you know, bad.
All tolled, this is an average effort for Bruckheimer, Turtletaub and Cage, with Baruchel thrown in to add spice. If you liked their previous work together, you should like this.
(*** out of *****)