Montreal Film Journal


Officially, this latest production from Jerry Bruckheimer is based on the classic segment of Walt Disney's "Fantasia" in which Mickey Mouse conjured a spell to make a broom come alive and do his chores while his master was out (itself a variation on the Goethe poem Der Zauberlehrling), but many other movies seemed to have inspired it: "Harry Potter" (a boy learns that he is a wizard), "Spider-Man" (a science nerd gains superpowers, which indirectly allows him to get closer to the girl of his dreams but also puts her in danger), "The Matrix" (an everyman is shown a whole new world of possibilities by a wise mentor, who believes that he is "the one"), "The Prestige" (magic clashes with Tesla-style science)...

All these elements are thrown together in a screenplay that also introduces, through an exposition-heavy prologue and a bunch of flashbacks later on, a mythological backstory involving the legendary Merlin and his three apprentices, Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) who, many centuries ago, waged an epic battle with the evil Morgana (Alice Krige) that ended with all but Balthazar being trapped into a Russian nesting doll... Then in contemporary New York, through circumstances more complicated than I care to explain, Horvath is freed and attempts to also unleash Morgana. The only one who can stop them from destroying the world or something is Dave (Jay Baruchel), who Balthazar is hoping he can train into becoming the most powerful sorcerer since Merlin himself...

As you can tell, the plot is kind of a mess, but it had the potential to be the basis for an enjoyable fantasy adventure nonetheless. Alas, it would have needed a filmmaker much more inspired than Jon Turteltaub at the helm for that. As is, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" feels desperately generic, a CGI overload lacking any sense of style, edge, intensity, excitement or wonder.

That being said, I almost want to recommend the movie anyway for the sheer lunacy that Nicolas Cage brings to it. He's long been one of my favorite actors for his ability to take what could have been a dull part in a dull film and making it fly. Through quirky mannerisms, offbeat line readings and the occasional all-out overacting, Cage makes it fun for himself and for the audience, too. Jay Baruchel, it turns out, is able to match him every step of the way and between the two of them, they make "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" much better than it had any right to be. It's still not particularly good, but I wouldn't mind seeing these guys going at it again in a sequel, which says quite a bit.