Film Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
2010 – 109mn – PG
Directed by Jon Turtletaub. Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci.
ANOTHER week, another summer blockbuster. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (adapted, we’re self-importantly told, from Goethe rather than from Mickey Mouse) is set in modern-day New York. Seemingly average student Dave (Jay Baruchel) is recruited as an apprentice by mysterious, eccentric sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) to combat his arch-nemesis Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), who is hatching evil plans towards the city. Balthazar and Maxim used to be friends, centuries ago, but they’ve fallen out over – what else – a woman (Monica Bellucci), a disagreement that sent Maxim to the dark side. Under Balthazar’s tutelage, Dave demonstrates hidden magical powers, and will have to use them to stop the forces of darkness.
You should be able to tell from this synopsis that this is summer fare squarely aimed at kids and young teenagers, and no one outside that demographic will find anything to sink their teeth into here. The film’s been described as The Karate Kid meets Harry Potter, and that’s accurate enough, only it has none of the warmth or magic of either. The film is professional and functional enough, but has no spark; it’s functional and flavorless. There are some fun goofy moments, but they’re few and far between. Sure, there are plenty of loud bangs and shiny special effects, but the story is shockingly empty, and it runs for way too long. As good as the actors are (Cage surprisingly underplays a role you’d expect him to punt into over-the-top territory, and Alfred Molina is as dependable a villain you’ll ever come across) neither of them manages to elevate the material. Baruchel is also a weak point – he’s likable, but he comes off increasingly as a one-trick pony with not much interest in range. The whole thing is, in one word, mediocre – worse still, satisfied with being mediocre.
Interestingly, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice marks the fourth dud in a row for hotshot producer Jerry Bruckheimer (he of Pirates of the Caribbean, Top Gun and Bad Boys fame) after the forgettable Prince of Persia, silly talking animal flick G-Force and lazy romcom Confessions of a Shopaholic. It’s a sad but telling sign of our times that even Hollywood’s blockbuster wizard can’t seem to make anything fun for us to watch.