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Wednesday
Jul142010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Nicolas Cage has had a bumpy ride. Never mind his personal life and tax problems. His cinematic endeavors alone have yielded mixed results. Raising Arizona, Con Air, Face/Off, Adaptation, all have showcased his considerable skill as an actor in a variety of ways. But the last few years have shown a dip in his ability to perform. National Treasure, Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous and the atrocious Next have rounded out his recent portfolio. However, he seems to be making a comeback. With his darker, comedic turns in movies like The Bad Lieutenant and Kick-Ass, he is once again proving himself as more than capable of carrying a film. His latest movie, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t quite what you’d expect next from a re-blossoming career such as his, but its good hearted nature, interesting premise and sly humor make it worth a look.

Cage plays Balthazar, a sorcerer who has been on the search for the one known as the Prime Merlinean for centuries. On happenstance, he finds him in physics nerd Dave, played by Jay Baruchel, and takes it upon himself to teach him the ways of sorcery, explaining that sorcerers can use their brains to their fullest extent, which explains why physics comes so easy to him. He is told that he holds the power that will help him defeat Horvath, played by Alfred Molina, who plans on breaking free the evil sorcerers of the world who have been trapped inside of a wooden doll for hundreds of years. Despite his reluctance, Dave agrees to help, though he finds himself sidetracked by the beautiful Becky, played by Teresa Palmer, and unwittingly drags her into the fray.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a movie that gets by on its charm alone. It’s a marginal movie that verges on the brink of self-destruction with problems persisting throughout its runtime, but I found myself smiling and laughing nevertheless. My brain says no, but the small child within me says yes. Chalk this one up as a guilty pleasure.

Such praise may come off as negligible, but I couldn’t be happier. See, I’ve already discredited John Turteltaub as a competent action director. After two unwatchable National Treasure movies with action scenes that have the same effect as a shot of NyQuil, I didn’t expect to find much pleasure here, but I did. While still not particularly memorable, Turteltaub is getting better, although much of the action hinges on special effects with which the actors unrealistically interact.

Baruchel in particular is unconvincing, especially during the dragon chase scene midway through. He has a niche type of talent that fits certain types of movies, like this year’s She’s Out of My League, but he has a tough time pretending to be scared of something that isn’t truly there. It’s good for him then that he’s allowed to venture into other territories away from the action. When not screaming at mythological beasts or throwing his arms around to conjure up plasma balls, he gives a winning performance that makes us care about him and root for him to get the girl. He steps away from the whiny, pity me personality he has inhabited in past films and shows that he can carry some charisma when given the chance.

Still, this is a kids oriented movie, complete with inconsistencies and juvenile humor, which is to say it’s harmless. Perhaps I was in a good mood, or perhaps it was due to the humorous nods to other Disney franchises—the homage to Fantasia (which this is very loosely based on) was fantastic—but I latched onto The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and never let go. I try to walk into every movie with my mind set to neutral, but realistically, one can’t help but have predetermined thoughts on whether or not a movie will be good. In this instance, my expectations and the actual outcome did not match.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice receives 3/5