THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE
Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel
Directed by Jon Turtletaub
Director Jon Turtletaub, über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and actor Nicolas Cage kicked off a blockbuster franchise with National Treasure, inspiring kids to seek anthropological action and adventure by playing fast and loose with history. The trio offer another unruly education, this time in history and science, with the occasionally magical Disney fantasy, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Cage plays Balthazar, one of legendary sorcerer Merlin’s three apprentices. He’s tasked with finding Merlin’s eventual heir, who will help defeat the evil sorceress Morgana, herself trapped in a Russian nesting doll inside the body of Balthazar’s love, Veronica. After roughly 1,300 years, and two tries, 20-year-old Dave (a reliably charming Jay Baruchel) proves to be Merlin’s successor and the only one capable of defeating Morgana. Of course, a few things stand in the way: Horvath (Alfred Molina), Merlin’s evil third apprentice, and Becky (Teresa Palmer) the blond bombshell distracting Dave from his magic training.
Sorcerer Cage and apprentice Baruchel have nice chemistry, riffing off each other with funny line deliveries and jolting physical comedy chops, but everything is strangely safe. Turtletaub shies away from letting his actors really go for it. In Balthazar, Cage could have created a character that rivaled Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. Instead, we get a 1,000-year-old wizard with a penchant for long, leather coats wearing a wig that resembles the unfortunate coif of Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger.
Many of the action sequences are fantastic, from a beautifully choreographed Chinese street festival where a dancing dragon transforms into a real dragon, to an array of magical tricks that prove genuinely thrilling (the so-called “mirror world,” though briefly seen, is brilliant). But the action stalls and starts with all the finesse of a birthday party magician. Turtletaub achieves some elements of wonder and wow, but his Apprentice never quite proves spellbinding. —Andrea Warner