The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is not a very good film. It is extremely predictable (even more so than most movies of this genre) and from the beginning, you know exactly how the movie will progress and end. But because the cast is so good the movie ends up being tolerable.
The story revolves around young Dave Stutter (JAY BARUCHEL) and his encounter with magician, Balthazar (NICOLAS CAGE) who used to work for Merlin (of all people!) Along comes the sophisticated baddy Maxim Horvath (ALFRED MOLINA) who is holding a long term grudge against Balthazar who imprisoned him in a jar with Morgana (ALICE KRIGE) and Balthazar’s ex Veronica (MONICA BELLUCCI) for over a thousand years. There is a lot of conventional nonsense, like Dave being the magician Balthazar has been searching a thousand years for who will save the world and there is a sub-plot about Dave trying to win the heart of Becky (TERESA PALMER) a girl he has had a crush on since childhood.
Really, the only reason to see this movie is for the cast, specifically Jay Baruchel, Tobby Kebbell and Alfred Molina. Baruchel is definitely a star on the rise. He is very sweet, charming and has great comic timing. He has a Woody Allen type persona, but it is more believable that girls would be interested in him. Women will like him because he’s geeky cute and men will like him because he is non-threatening and “like them”. Tobby Kebbell steals every scene he is in, much the way he did in Rock n’ Rolla a few years ago. He plays a self absorbed David Blaine-type “illusionist” and it is a lot of fun to watch him prance about. Lastly, you can always count on Alfred Molina, no matter what nonsense movie he might be in, to give a good performance. As usual, he makes a cheeky, fun villain, but still grounds the character in as much reality as a movie like this will allow.
When the actors in Sorcerer’s Apprentice are working their magic, it is entertaining. But since the whole point of a movie like this is to show off spectacular action sequences, it is ironic that, with the exception of the final sequence, the film drags during them. It is one of those cases where it is clear that the producers thought that cool new effects (lightning bolts shooting from the actors hands) was enough to captivate audiences. But action sequences do not stand on their own without help. They need careful pacing and editing just as dramatic scenes do. Whiz bang effects and stunts are not in themselves engrossing enough to hold an audiences attention. In spite of this problem, one of the more successful moments in the film is the sequence inspired by Fantasia (set again to the famous tone poem by Paul Dukas.) It is a well staged, enjoyable moment and gives Baruchel the opportunity to do some great slapstick comedy.
It is hard to recommend Sorcerer’s Apprentice, unless you are a big fan of one of its stars. But if you are dragged to the theatre by your child, it is a painless way to spend an afternoon.