out of Five
Running time: 101
Likeable, engaging fantasy adventure with a decent script, pacey direction, terrific special effects and strong performances, though it doesn't quite pull off its emotional moments.
What's it all about?
Directed by Jon Turteltaub and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is loosely based on the classic Fantasia segment (wittily recreated halfway through the film) in which Mickey Mouse gets into trouble after borrowing Merlin's hat to bring some brooms to life. Jay Baruchel stars as New York science geek Dave Stutler, who meets powerful sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) and discovers that his destiny is to become a great magician.
With Balthazar's ex-colleague Horvath (Alfred Molina) plotting to resurrect the evil Morgana Le Fey (Alice Krige) and destroy the world, Balthazar attempts to train Dave in the ways of magic so he'll be ready for the coming fight. However, Dave's slightly pre-occupied by the fact that he's just landed a date with Becky (Teresa Palmer, who looks like a blonde Kristen Stewart), the girl he's been in love with since junior school.
Jay Baruchel is likeable and engaging as Dave, while Alfred Molina is terrific as Horvath and there's strong comic support from Toby Kebbel as a stage magician recruited to the dark side. Cage is equally good, though he's a little bit too broody and seems to be reining it in a bit rather than delivering the full-on bonkers performance we know he's capable of.
Turteltaub keeps things moving at a decent pace throughout and orchestrates some fabulous set-pieces, aided by some impressive special effects. Highlights include: dragons coming to life in a Chinatown parade (a genius directorial touch has a brief shot of the confused men inside the dragon costume suddenly being surrounded by dragon stomach); a car chase with shape-changing cars; and Cage riding on a stone eagle from the Empire State Building.
In addition, the script is frequently funny and the characters themselves make several witty film references, like a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Indiana Jones moment or Kebbel's character quoting Star Wars. However, both Monica Bellucci (as Blake's imprisoned lover) and Alice Krige are woefully under-used and the film rushes its supposedly romantic moments, so it doesn't quite cast the emotional spell you're hoping for.
Emotional quibbles aside, this is an entertaining, pacily directed fantasy adventure with strong performances and superb special effects. Recommended.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (PG)