Friday 8 March 2013


(Jon Turteltaub, 2010)

The makers of The Sorcerers Apprentice don't seem to know quite what they want it to be.
It's a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Summer Blockbuster, but despite the tens of Millions of dollars lavished upon the many special effects sequences and the location shooting in New York City, somehow it never quite feels like one. It is a kid-friendly action-fantasy, but it has a strange setting, seemingly borrowed from Spider-Man comics. It's hero Dave (Jay Baruchal, whose wonky charm works surprisingly well surrounded by so much nonsense) is a geeky Science whizz at a Manhattan University, with no girlfriend or social life. That all goes back to the traumatic episode in his childhood when he encountered Balthazar (Nicolas Cage, in relatively restrained mode) a powerful, ancient sorcerer, who revealed that Dave is himself destined to be a powerful sorcerer before the appearance of Horvath (Alfred Molina doing his stock villain routine) led to a destructive magical battle and Dave's humiliation before his entire school class, including a girl he liked.
The plot resumes a decade later, with Dave engaged in mad scientist experiments (channelling his sorcery into science, you see), that girl from school, now revealed as pretty Becky (Teresa Palmer) reappearing in his life, and Horvath and Balthazar suddenly freed from the urn in which they have been sealed together for the last ten years. They both seek a Russian Doll which imprisons Morgan Le Fay, Horvath to free her and destroy the world, Balthazar to ensure she remains trapped, and Dave, of course, gets caught in the middle while Balthazar tries to teach him how to become the sorcerer he is destined to be.
That makes it sort-of-a-superhero film, since it deals with the origin of a young hero with supernatural abilities, but despite all the magical battles in the streets and skies of New York, it has no iconography, no costumes, no secret identities. Baruchal and Toby Kebbell (as Horvath's apprentice, a celebrity Magician who lives like a Rock star) both seem to play much of it for laughs, but Cage is, well, Cage, all loony intensity and odd delivery, and the tone is all over the place.
Turteltaub is an odd director, a successful hack who has made romcoms, big family blockbusters, and semi-serious dramas, all without ever evincing any particular personality or great talent beyond efficiency, and he might be the problem with the Sorcerers Apprentice. Despite a nice cast (also including Monica Bellucci and Alice Krige as Sorceresses), some interesting elements, particularly some of the clever ways magic in the modern world is manifested, and several good moments, it all feels quite anonymous and tired and the last act is a bit of a trudge to the inevitable ending.

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