The team behind the National Treasure franchise—Nicolas Cage, Jon Turteltaub and Jerry Bruckheimer—are back with this summer’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an action-packed adventure full of magic and mystery. Although the trio has found success before, Cage has been pulling the same rabbit out of his hat for years. In Disney’s reimagining of Goethe’s classic narrative poem (and of its own 1940 animated adaptation in Fantasia), Cage is Balthazar Blake, a centuries-old sorcerer whose role is better suited for an older actor. I couldn’t help but imagine Sean Connery conjuring a ball of lightning and shouting, “Who’s the man now, dog?” Instead, we get a Balthazar who is seemingly more concerned with his hair and looking cool than teaching his apprentice.
Jay Baruchel, as the nerdy apprentice, is definitely the star of the show. His natural geekiness lends itself well to the role, although his character’s wishy-washy attitude toward the discovery of magic is a little hard to fathom. If someone, even a creepy man in a leather duster, offered to teach me magic, I might be a little intrigued, but if I SHOOT FIRE FROM MY HANDS … I’m all in.
With Apprentice, Baruchel starts and stops his ethereal education one too many times, all for the love of his 10-year-long crush, Becky Barnes (Teresa Palmer). I felt the film should have focused more on the relationship between student and master, but in the age of Twilight, young love is seemingly a requirement in Hollywood, even if only used as a device to move the story along.
Not letting the formulaic film stifle his talents, Alfred Molina thrives as Balthazar’s arch-nemesis Maxim Horvath. Molina brings a calculated cruelty to the screen, rarely seen in a Disney film. There were some amazing special effects, including a car transformation that Michael Bay might want to borrow, but they only serve as a magician’s sleight-of-hand to distract you from the truth: While both kids and parents will enjoy The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they may find themselves wishing it would just get to the big finale.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (PG) ★★★☆☆