Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness. It'll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes the sorcerer's apprentice.

26 Aug 2010 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2010 - 12:00 AM

Bruckheimer and Cage lose their magic touch.

Nicolas Cage and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have enjoyed a durable and mutually profitable partnership with hits such as the National Treasure franchise, Gone in 60 Seconds, The Rock and Con Air, but they came horribly unstuck with this inane, inept, puerile fantasy.

Budgeted at an obscenely expensive $US150 million, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice conjured up a lousy $60 million in its first six weeks in the US, a financial disaster for the Walt Disney Co.

For that we can apportion blame among the scriptwriters Matt Lopez and Doug Miro (who co-wrote that other Disney summer dud produced by Bruckheimer, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and Carlo Bernard (Race to Witch Mountain and the lamentable Bedtime Stories); uninspired direction by Hollywood hack Jon Turtletaub; Cage’s lifeless performance; and the producer for orchestrating this noisy, over-blown mess.

The studio would argue the movie was aimed at family audiences but I’d suggest it lacks the wit, sophistication and sensibility to appeal to most adults. According to the production notes, the film was inspired by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment in the 1940 animated classic Fantasia but I suspect most people would be hard pressed to see a direct connection.

Set in 740 AD, the ominously dull prologue sees the legendary wizard Merlin locked into a losing battle with the evil Morgana Le Fay (Alice Krige), who thereafter gets trapped, along with cute sorceress Veronica (Monica Bellucci, wasted) in a Russian doll called a Grimhold.

There they remain for centuries, guarded by Merlin's protégé Balthazar Blake (Cage). The narrative then jumps to Manhattan in the year 2000 as 10-year-old Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) stumbles into a curio shop where he meets the ageless Balthazar, who inexplicably knows the boy will be a great wizard, perhaps the great wizard. However, clumsy Dave breaks an urn, releasing Balthazar’s nemesis Maxim Horvath and triggering the first of a series of fiery battles, using special effects we’ve seen countless times previously. Horvath is drolly played by a menacing Alfred Molina, presumably because Alan Rickman was occupied elsewhere.

Ten years later, Dave (now impersonated by Jay Baruchel, the dweeb in She’s Out of My League) is a New York University physics student who’s trying to woo cute co-ed Becky (blonde and bland Aussie Teresa Palmer). While Horvath plots with his punkish illusionist disciple Drake (Toby Kebbell) to restore Morgana to her full power so she can destroy the world, Balthazar enlists Dave as his apprentice, an amateur Harry Potter, to make it a fair fight.

Balthazar knows Dave’s in mortal danger but strangely leaves him alone, setting the scene for more battles involving dragons and an animated eagle, chases and a scene where Dave wrestles with rampaging mops and brooms (a bow to Fantasia). It’s best not to ask why the aerial magicians Balthazar and Maxim would bother to jump into cars to pursue each other through the streets of New York. All this leads to an utterly predictable, deflating climax.

Cage’s expressions cover a limited range, from earnest to fearless to glazed, and he trots out leaden dialogue along the lines of, 'That"¦must"¦not"¦happen!" Surely there can’t be an easier way to earn $20 million or so. Baruchel delivers his lines in a monotone and the romance with Becky is exceedingly tame, bordering on pointless. Much like the movie itself.


1 hour 49 min
In Cinemas 09 September 2010,
Wed, 01/12/2011 - 11