Movie Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice- John Turteltaub and Jerry Bruckheimer’s Familiar Formula Has Some Charm but Lacks Any Ingenious Cinematic Magic

It seems as though director John Turteltaub doesn’t like directing a film that deals with specifics. Just as he bastardized American history in National Treasure, Turteltaub seeks out to demolish all that was fascinating about Merlin and magic in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with a run of the mill Bruckheimer production that tries too hard to be fun and misses the point of being magical entirely. With a shaky and vague opening The Sorcerer’s Apprentice actually becomes guiltily pleasurable in the first half of the film, especially with the interactions between Nicholas Cage and the eloquently spoken villain Alfred Molina. However, as the not so special effects begin to consistently make their way on the screen and the chemistry between all of the characters begins to depend too much on the Bruckheimer formula, the film ultimately becomes your basic predictable summer film. Not even Jay Baruchel’s charming befuddled self can make up for the basic film that has been not so magically concocted to satisfy our most basic of entertainment expectations. Mostly what is so disappointing about The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is that it really just parallels our perception of what it was inevitably going to be: an emotionless thrill ride with a great deal of charm and not a lot of wit. Take that how you will and perhaps you’ll be surprisingly entertained despite the unnecessarily stretched length of the film.

The point of most of director John Turtelaub’s films isn’t necessarily for plot coherency but rather a twist on known features, either it being historical facts for National Treasure and in Sorcerer’s Apprentice it is a borrowed feature of the magic that surrounded Merlin. Apparently the famous wizard from the King Arthur tales had three apprentices whom he gifted with eternal life, but one of them, Horvath (Alfred Molina) betrayed the trust of Merlin and killed him with the aid of a sorceress named Morgana. Fortunately the most loyal of the apprentices, Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) was able to trap both Horvath and Morgana in a strange magical Russian doll that has layers that could easily be broken (gee, I wonder what will eventually happen?). So Balthazar travels for centuries in order to find the prime Merlinian (I’m sort of embarrassed to type that) who ends up being a geeky, non-heroic New York physics nerd named Dave. Dave is entrusted as Balthazar’s apprentice, where he stumbles to learn the ways of the force (I mean magic) and also struggles to impress the girl that got away. It comes off so innocent and ridiculous that it sort of works throughout the first half of the movie as Alfred Molina holds most of the film together as an intriguing antagonist. However, once the other villain Morgana takes center stage it reeks of a bad magic replication of Ghostbusters as the physics nerd must eventually believe in himself in order to win. It’s just too formulaic to be taken seriously, which the film unfortunately tries to do in the second half. Don’t look for credible references to the old Merlin tales because The Sorcerer’s Apprentice doesn’t offer that. Instead just be content with knowing that when the charm of the characters begins to make headway the loud and relentless special effects will take you away from any credible or meaningful character interactions.

Special effects and CGI can’t cost that much since they seem to plague every script with unnecessary sequences of mind absorbing spectacle. It just makes the whole magical experience in the film a little less magical, seeing as how every scene has some use of special effects. But really it’s not the continuous use of CGI but rather its ability to distract and even disrupt character development and meaningful interactions. All of the characters could have benefited from a little down time from the relentless action for some intriguing dialogue or moments of revealing emotion. This could have given us a bit more of a reason to follow these selected characters through the chaos that is the scientific magic world that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice introduces us to. There are some minor moments of humor that work throughout the film, especially the two film references to Star Wars and Fantasia. However, these are just momentary lapses in the generic story and Bruckheimer formula that has been so successful at manipulating audiences into the theaters. But, hey if it isn’t broken why fix it, right? Luckily the entire cast, from Nicholas Cage to Jay Baruchel, has enough presence to get us through the typical action and mediocre script moments, making The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at the very least enjoyable.

Nicholas Cage has always been somewhat charming, whether he’s a wanted felon in Raising Arizona or an eccentric, super hero killing machine in Kick-Ass. And just like in National Treasure, Cage brings that ability to not take himself too seriously in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and his acting abilities do carry the film through the more ridiculous or uninspiring moments. Jay Baruchel makes for a decent, if only sufficient, counterpart to Cage’s eccentricity. Baruchel has a unique ability to capture our expectations of a bumbling awkward geek and he has certainly used it to his advantage so far in his career, whether it was in the low budget geek comedy Fanboys or even his latest romantic comedy She’s Out of My League. But to say this validates any ability to be a leading man in a summer action film would be misleading, since he works for what this mediocre script was able to conjure up. Really the whole film doesn’t fall to pieces due to Alfred Molina’s unique ability to be a charming yet villainous presence on the screen. This veteran actor is a gem in the movie industry and with more and more roles in blockbusters and independent films alike it seems as though people are starting to notice his rare abilities. The rest of the cast does a sufficient job of not making the film seemed forced or too eager, though the action sequences do a good enough job of that on their own.

For as many spells this film casts up in its special effects it clearly lacks the true magic of inspiring action cinema. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t anything new to the summer blockbuster world nor does it really try to be. The Bruckheimer formula of eccentric and stated characters along with a lot of action and a bit of lazy romance will never be challenged since it usually does well at getting audiences into the seats. As a summer escape you could do a lot worse but for anyone looking for a unique summer thrill that centers on magic than you might be a bit disappointed. Though the story is uninspiring and at times a bit awkward the characters, meaning the actors, have enough charisma to make it a tolerable experience. Basically it is John Turteltaub’s National Treasure meets the fantasy world of magic and for many that might be a good enough. However, it simply doesn’t conjure up any alluring spells of ingenuity.

Grade: C

One Response to “Movie Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice- John Turteltaub and Jerry Bruckheimer’s Familiar Formula Has Some Charm but Lacks Any Ingenious Cinematic Magic”
  1. Jemma says:

    What!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????????????????????? Sorcerer’s Apprentice was Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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