The Sorcerer’s Apprentice ** ½
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub.
Written By: Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal & Matt Lopez and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard.
Starring: Nicolas Cage (Balthazar), Jay Baruchel (Dave), Alfred Molina (Horvath), Teresa Palmer (Becky), Toby Kebbell (Drake Stone), Omar Benson Miller (Bennet), Monica Bellucci (Veronica), Alice Krige (Morgana).
I know a lot of people hate Nicolas Cage. They say he goes over the top way too often and that he often delivers utterly awful performances. While I wouldn’t really disagree with that notion ( I have after all seen The Wicker Man, Gone in 60 Seconds, Windtalkers and Ghost Rider among others), I have always loved Cage anyway. Yes, when he’s bad, he’s downright awful. But when he is great, like in last year’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, no one can match his zany brilliance. So, every time a Nicolas Cage movie comes out, I’m always there. His latest, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is neither a disaster nor brilliant, but kind of falls somewhere in between. In fact, while you wouldn’t say that Cage’s performance in the movie is subtle, he certainly is playing the straight man to Jay Baruchel.
The Sorceror’s Apprentice stars Cage as a former protégé of Merlin, who has spent the last 1300 years or so looking for someone call the Prime Merlinian – a sorcerer who has Merlin’s power, but has yet to find anyone. He needs the Prime Merlinian, because only they can kill Morgana, a powerful evil sorcerer once and for all. Cage’s Balthazar has imprisoned Morgan in a doll for the intervening years, fighting off evil sorceror’s, including Horvath (Alfred Molina) to do so. If she is ever let out of the doll, she could destroy the world. And it seems that in Physics student Dave (Baruchel), Balthazar has finally found his man.
I don’t feel the need to go into the intricacies of the plot, because really, it is all rather silly. Essentially Balthazar needs to train Dave to make him a powerful sorcerer, because Horvath and his protégé Drake (Toby Kebbell) want to free Morgana and soon. But Dave isn’t sure the life of a sorcerer is all that great – especially if it risks the new relationship he has with Becky (Teresa Palmer) who he been in love with since he was 10.
So yeah, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is silly from the start, but it also has moments that are damn fun as well. Baruchel is charming and funny as Dave – just like he has been in his other movies this year How to Train Your Dragon, The Trotsky and She’s Out of My League. There is a star in there waiting to come out. Cage is loopy and fun as Balthazar, without going too far over the top. He’s in fine form, but for me, I kind of wanted him to go a little farther over the top. After all, he’s playing a 1,300 year old sorcerer – if there was a time to go bizarre, this would be it. Luckily, Alfred Molina chews the scenery nicely as Horvath, and Kebbell is just plain fun as a Criss Angel clone. I can’t say I was bored by the movie because I wasn’t. It was fun in fits and starts, and even when it wasn’t, it wasn’t painfully awful either. But it wasn’t enough fun to really justify seeing the film either. The director is Jonathan Turteltaub who did the two National Treasure movies with Cage, and while this movie is just as goofy as those ones were, it didn’t bother me much this time. After all, this is about sorcerer’s not history. The film is a pleasant time waster, nothing more, nothing less.