I’ve gone around and around again so many times on Nicolas Cage that I really never know what I’m going to get when I show up for one of his movies. Is he going to give me a great performance? Is he going to give me a bad performance? Is he going to give me an awesomely bad performance? I’m never sure just what he’s going to do, and the more I accept that, the more I think I like it.
Nicolas Cage is the star of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (he’s the sorcerer), which is the tale of a weasel-y little social misfit named Dave, who spends most of his time locked away in an old subway turnaround, performing experiments on Tesla coils as part of his pursuit of a physics degree at NYU. He doesn’t get out much, despite the best efforts of his roommates.
However, Dave is special. Not special in the way in which special is a pejorative term, but special in an actual sense. Ten years ago, Dave ran into Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), who, as it turns out, is one of the three apprentices of Merlin.
Victoria, another apprentice, gave up her life defending the earth from Morgan le Fay. The third, Horvath (Alfred Molina), has dedicated his life to freeing Morgan from her prison, a Russian nesting doll of a prison whose name escapes me at the moment. Either way, after young Dave wanders into Balthazar’s shop of mystical wonders and accidentally frees Horvath from his prison while simultaneously being dubbed the Prime Merlinian (an heir to Merlin’s bloodline), you know that there will be magical incidents galore.
Ten years after the first meeting of Dave and the forces of wizardry, Balthazar and Horvath are freed from a magical urn/tomb. It’s up to Horvath to free Morgan le Fay. It’s up to Balthazar to track down Dave, train him in the ways of the magical arts (Dave the Magician has a nice ring to it) and stop Horvath’s potential reign of terror.
The plot, in case you can’t tell from my description, is really straightforward: wizard versus wizard, with the fate of humanity at stake. As Balthazar, Cage has a great place to store his various mannerisms. Like most men who are several thousand years old, Balthazar is a bit on the quirky side with his old man shoes and his rawhide overcoat. However, he’s equal parts wise and charming, with just enough of a smirk on his face to keep his occasional one-liners from landing with a thud.
Jay Baruchel plays the classic stammering young Jeff Goldblum-type of nerd that falls right within his wheelhouse, all awkward stuttering and incredulity. As for Alfred Molina, he seems to have a certain amount of relish for his villainous role, plus he gets to wear a bowler hat and brandish a cane, which is always fun in any circumstance.
As for the story, despite its relative simplicity, there were quite a few hands involved. Five different people are listed with story credits on this one. I’m not sure why, since the movie doesn’t really need that many writers. It’s a family-friendly action adventure with a little romance mixed in. Unless every writer took on a different genre to cover all the bases, it’s mind boggling to see so many hands at work. The movie is fairly focused despite this. Then again, it’s not exactly Inception.
One of the good things about the film is the direction of Jon Turteltaub, reunited with his National Treasure mates Cage and Jerry Bruckheimer. The movie doesn’t go too crazy with its special effects, aside from some necessary flash in the magic segments. There’s a car chase done with fairly normal cars, and some very good CGI creature work, but it’s nothing that strains the limits of animation or imagination. There’s also a nice balance between the comedy and the adventure, made competently.
Much like National Treasure, there’s not a whole lot to rave about when it comes to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. They’ve done about as well as they could do with a long form adaptation of a short segment from Disney’s Fantasia. Nicolas Cage is a lot of fun, the movie itself is pretty fun. The love story drags it down a bit, but it’s cute enough and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The movie’s true audience, younger kids, should really eat it up with a spoon. As for the adults, there’s charm enough to make it more tolerable than a lot of fare aimed at a similarly aged audience.
US correspondent Ron Hogan thinks Jay Baruchel is the love child of Adrien Brody and Jeff Goldblum. As for Nicolas Cage, this is his best movie hairpiece in quite a while. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.