Monday, July 19, 2010

Review - The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Balthazar Blake is a master sorcerer's who has searched for over a thousand years for the right apprentice to wear Merlin's ring. When by fate Balthazar crosses paths with a average New York City kid, he quickly believes him to be the rightful apprentice. Balthazar must enlist and train the young protégé in order for them to protect the city of New York from his evil arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath.

If you were to tell me that Disney was going to make a live-action movie based off Fantasia's ever-so-popular animated sequence with Mickey Mouse, never in a million years would I have envisioned the movie Jon Turteltaub directed. Oppositely if you were to tell me the plot for the 2010 fantasy, there's no way I would've thought it would be good. Magically however, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is very much enjoyable and easily becomes one of my favorite movies directed by Turteltaub.

'Apprentice' has a strange mix of fantasy and comedy like plenty of other Jerry Bruckheimer produced films. This combination hasn't always worked, but here, the film a genuine joy to sit through. What makes the comedy work so well is simply Nicolas Cage. Cage brings one of his better personas to the character of Balthazar Black. Having seen early set stills of Nicolas Cage in character during production, I was worried about how he'd turn out, but the 29 year veteran actor just brings the right amount of quark to the role. Cage is both charming and ridiculous. Not too many actors can pull that off, but Cage does it well once again. Cage has been on a string of amazing performances lately with 'Bad Lieutenant' and Kick-Ass. While "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" isn't his best amongst that bunch, it is certainly a memorable one, not to mention one I'll want in my collection.

One thing "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is not, is heavy thinking material. The fantasy is as light as you'd imagine. The film treads the entire time above the surface so that little kids can follow along. Unfortunately, this means the older generation needs to remove their thinking caps completely. Again, this is a fantasy, so the adventure pleads with you to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Surely a more detailed story could've been made while still keeping younger audiences engaged, but not here. The strange part is there are not one, not two, but six credited screenwriters for the Bruckheimer production. Six! I'm sorry, this movie did not need six writers whether or not they were just touch-ups.

The film itself follows the typical romantic comedy outline, just exchange the girlfriend with a sorcerer. Guy meets sorcerer, guy loses sorcerer, guy fights to get sorcerer back. Except, oh yeah, there is a girl in the story too. Oh, now I'm beginning to see why this script needed six credited writers. Bad screenwriting aside the story unfolds rather quickly and moves along at decent pace. The audience is treated to a few really enjoyable action sequences and a couple oohs and awe moments as well. The Walt Disney film had a pretty large budget and luckily, the film tends to showcase it. The sets are pretty impressive and the CGI throughout keeps you engaged. Too many times CGI is so bad you begin to nit pic, but here I mainly stayed enthralled with the action transpiring.

Oddly enough, Jay Baruchel really annoyed me in the role of Dave. I say oddly because I've liked Baruchel in everything else I've seen him in. The screenplay really plays up Baruchel's one note nerdy character and unfortunately it just didn't work. I actually would've liked this movie a whole lot more if Dave wasn't played as such a self-loathing nerd. Baruchel is hilarious in these types of role otherwise, but this script just spends to much time with Dave doubting himself. Thankfully, Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina step in a bunch to add life and enjoyability back into the fantasy.

This year at the movies has been very strange. There have been numerous fantasy filled movies that have remained extremely light in content. The Wolfman, Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and The Last Airbender all like "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" seem to only skim the surface of possibilities. While I have enjoyed every single one of those films, none of them have measured up to what they should have. They only are a fraction of what they could've been. Perhaps Hollywood is trying in these economic times of struggle to give audiences simplistic movies just to escape, but that doesn't mean they have to make them inferior stories or dumb them down for us. Somewhere, I think there is a happy medium, its just too bad all of these above mentioned titles couldn't find it.