The Sorcerer's ApprenticeBy Karen Wilson
MPAA Rating: PG for some fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language
Genre: Fantasy/Action Adventure
Release Date: July 14, 2010
Running Time: 1 hour and 51 minutes
Plot Synopsis: In medieval Britain, Merlin's three disciples Balthazar, Veronica, and Horvath were battling the evil sorceress Morgana when Horvath betrayed his colleagues to side with Morgana. During the battle, Veronica sacrificed herself, capturing Morgana in her body and letting Balthazar trap both of them inside the Grimhold, a magical nesting doll. Merlin tells Balthazar the only way to defeat Morgana and rescue Veronica is to find the Prime Merlinean, the direct descendant of Merlin. Balthazar travels through time until he meets Dave, a 10-year-old on a class trip to New York who stumbles into the Arcana Cabana magic shop. After Balthazar discovers Dave is the destined apprentice, he becomes a pawn in a massive fight between Horvath and Balthazar. Dave wants to forget he ever met those crazy sorcerers but 10 years later when he's a college student at NYU, they reappear in his life ready to wreck more mayhem.
Sex/Nudity: The 10-year-old Dave has a crush on 10-year-old Becky and sends her a note to see if she wants to be his friend or girlfriend. When they reconnect 10 years later, Dave tries to impress her with his physics knowledge and helps her with the radio station where she works. A romance develops between them as the adventure unfolds and when they finally defeat Morgana, Dave and Becky kiss and he suggests they go to Paris together. Balthazar and Veronica also are in love and when she is released from the grimhold and Morgana defeated, they kiss.
Violence/Gore: Balthazar, Veronica, Horvath, Merlin and Morgana fight as the story of their history together is told by a voiceover. In the Arcana Cabana, Dave accidentally releases Horvath from the grimhold and then Horvath and Balthazar fight, destroying the store and setting a fire, until they stumble into a Chinese urn and get trapped. 10 years later when the two sorcerers are released from the urn, Horvath comes after Dave threatening him and sending a pack of wolves to chase him. Horvath releases a Chinese sorcerer from the grimhold and Dave fights him and his dragon incantation in Chinatown. A mugger steals Becky's handbag and Dave ineptly uses his magic to beat him up and return her belongings. Horvath recruits another evil sorcerer to help him, Drake Stone who corners Dave in a bathroom at school and threatens him. Dave and Balthazar get into a car chase with Horvath and Drake through Times Square that wrecks a lot of havoc. Drake and Horvath kidnap Becky and Dave has to give up his Merlin ring to save her. Horvath releases Morgana and she starts to say the incantation, which will bring the other dead evil sorcerers to life, but Balthazar and then Dave fight her and win. Balthazar seems dead from a blast by Morgana but Dave brings him back to life.
Profanity: A few mild words but nothing off color.
Will Parents Like It? Adults will be amused by Nicholas Cage's theatricality, the cameos by New York City landmarks and the elaborate special effects sequences.
Which Kids Will Like It? Middle school age boys will enjoy the action adventure and the magical blasting of plasma bolts. Physics nerds and former geeks should also identify with Dave's transformation to full-fledged sorcerer.
Kaboose Review: One of the most universally beloved portions of the 1940 animated Disney movie Fantasia is the one known as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." In it, Mickey Mouse plays the assistant to an unnamed magician who teaches Mickey some basic magic and then leaves him alone to clean the laboratory. We all know what happens next: Mickey unwisely uses magic to bewitch the mops and brooms and when he isn't looking everything gets delightfully out of control.
With its simple classical score and careful hand drawings, this original "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is about nearly the opposite of the new Jon Turteltaub CGI extravaganza of the same name as you can get. Turteltaub's movie has a complicated back-story, unpronounceable character names and objects, flashy plasma bolts and a larger-than-life Nicolas Cage. This reboot has its moments of charm and good-humored fun—though it doesn't have the iconic staying power of Mickey Mouse in a blue star-studded sorcerer's robe trying to make mops do his bidding.
In his role as the sorcerer Balthazar Blake, Nic Cage is like a cartoon come to life and his incredible energy is what keeps the movie interesting. He should completely give up playing characters that are at all grounded in the real world, Cage works much better when he can let all of his ticks, twitches and random exaltations run rampant. Even his part in National Treasure (a series also directed by Turteltaub) as the archeologist adventurer Ben Gates seems too tame for Cage after watching him be an all-powerful sorcerer. Just as Balthazar explains to Dave that sorcerers are able to perform magic because they use 100 percent of their brains, Cage throws 100 percent of himself into this part. Alfred Molina, as Balthazar's nemesis sorcerer Maxim Horvath, also seems to be having fun, and he chomps on the scenery nearly as hard as Cage.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is one of the few big budget releases this summer not playing in 3-D and it's a relief to get a break from wearing those uncomfortable, ill-fitting plastic glasses. The effects in the movie are flashy enough as it is, imagine if the plasma bolts Dave learns to throw were coming right off of the screen. In one scene, Dave shows off a Tesla coil he built in his laboratory to Becky, using his science nerd abilities to woo his love interest. As the bolts of current dance around them to Dave's synchronized pattern, you can understand the thrill on actress Teresa Palmer's face. This is the kind of flash that movies should be going for, when it's organic to the story and a visual delight.
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Nicolas Cage (Balthazar Blake), Jay Baruchel (Dave Stutler), Alfred Molina (Maxim Horvath), Teresa Palmer (Becky Barnes), Monica Bellucci (Veronica), Omar Benson Miller (Bennett), Toby Kebbell (Drake Stone)
Movie poster courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.