Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nicolas Cage, Power Man

Sorcerer's Apprentice is the type of movie that, at best, will do no harm. It's kind of like the dog you pass in the street who looks a little funny, like he might rear up and bite you. You're hoping the dog will just keep sitting there as you pass by as you go your way and that it won't start approaching you or, worse, start summoning computer generated dragons. I'll say that, for the most, this dog of a movie doesn't bite. It lays there and watches you with vacant eyes and more or less leaves you alone. This is surprising as it was directed by Jon Turteltaub, the guy who made those retarded National Treasure movies. Remember when Nic Cage and Diane Kruger stole the Declaration of Independence? And poured lemon juice on it to find some stupid treasure map? Yeah, I wish I could forget too. Fear not though as there are no moments like that in Sorcerer's Apprentice. In fact, there's only one fairly memorable moment at all and that involved Nicolas Cage's 2000 year old sorcerer pretending to be a modern day New York City cop. An hour and 45 minutes resulting in 30 memorable seconds. That's the kind of movie you're dealing with here.

Cage plays Balthazar Blake, a former apprentice of Merlin who is now a master sorcerer. Balthazar managed to trap Merlin's arch nemesis, Morgana, in a nesting jar called the Grimhold along with Merlin's traitorous apprentice turned Morgana ally Horvath (Alfred Molina). Personally, as a student of Arthurian legend, I was embarrassed that I'd never heard of any of this before and am very grateful to Jon Turteltaub and Disney for enlightening me. Anyway, just before Merlin died, he tasked Balthazar with finding the Prime Merlinian (yeah, I know), a wizard so powerful that he would be able to finally slay Morgana. Fast forward to the year 2000 and we find Dave Stutler, a nice 10 year old kid in New York who goes on a field trip. He actually seems to possess enough charm to convince his classmate Becky to be his girlfriend but then loses the note that would have confirmed this. The note blows through the city before it winds up on Balthazar's door who recognizes him as the Prime Merlinian. Balthazar leaves Dave alone actually believing that Dave won't touch anything simply because he was told not to. In his first two minutes as a sorcerer, he releases Horvath from his 2000 year old prison thus endangering the entire world.

Balthazar and Horvath end up getting sucked into some sort of jar for ten years leaving Dave to grow up to be Jay Baruchel. Dave is a brilliant physics student whose school seems to give him unlimited resources to make what's basically a light show involving Tesla coils. Dave has spent the last ten years being hung up on Becky who rejected him after he went raving about the two sorcerers to his class. A jar of oil spilling into his lap that made him look like he'd wet his pants didn't help either but at least that made Becky remember him when he ran into her again. Dave has little time for romance though when Balthazar and Horvath escape from their prison. Balthazar convinces Dave to become his apprentice and then proceeds to teach
Dave how to do magic, an art that mainly involves mastering the use of CGI and it drags on from there until the eventual happy ending.

I suspect this movie exists because some mid-level Disney executive did what guys like he always do. He went through decades of Disney content trying to see how a few bucks can be squeezed out of one of their classic accomplishments. In this case, someone thought it would be a good idea to take the Sorcerer's Apprentice part of Fantasia where Mickey Mouse brings cleaning supplies to life that end up going out of control and turn it into a full length feature. That scene is even recreated here. It's basically the same concept that has given us live action 101 Dalmatians movies and Tinkerbell DVDs.

Still, it can be classified as Mostly Harmless and filed away in my "Forget This As Soon As You Publish This Review" file so I suppose that society has once again gotten away unscathed from some would-be blockbuster. Cage was good because he can play weirdos and make them look normal and Baruchel was far more appealing than he was in She's Out Of My League. That's about it for compliments. We should all consider ourselves lucky as it could have been a lot worse like when the live action 101 Dalmatians came out. They still haven't found all the bodies from that one.

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