THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE

http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/sorcerersapprentice/

USA 2010  Directed by: Jon Turteltaub  Written by: Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Matt Lopez  Screen Story: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal  Poem: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer  Cinematography: Bojan Bazelli Editing: William Goldenberg Music: Trevor Rabin Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jar Baruchel, Teresa Palmer, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci

I wouldn’t have thought to ever again watch a movie with Nic Cage that is not annoying (because of Nic Cage), but THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE is one of the few cases when he and his questionable acting abilities fit his role perfectly.

It’s not that the team behind NATIONAL TREASURE would leave much to chance here: based on a segment in Disney’s FANTASIA (I am sure most people wouldn’t recognize – or know – Goethe’s poem) Bruckheimer sticks to his success formula, namely a popular lead actor, a huge budget, a love story and loads of action.

This time he pretty much copies Bay’s TRANSFORMERS with the steel dragon replacing the robots and Baruchel and Palmer replacing Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox respectively, mixing all that in the sorcerer’s cauldron with his very own NATIONAL TREASURE franchise and motifs from buddy movies or period films (again, his very own preferably).

The story itself then is HARRY POTTER for twentysomethings: Balthazar Blake (Cage), an ex-disciple of the great Merlin himself, is a sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan fighting against his arch-enemy Horvath (Molina), while searching for and finally finding the one sorcerer who will inherit Merlin’s powers (Baruchel). It turns out that this person is an average university student who Balthazar has to take as apprentice to turn him into a true master of magic before Horvath can succeed with his plan to destroy the world.

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE could have become another flop of AIRBENDER or PERCY JACKSON proportions, but this is not the case. It’s not just a bit better, it’s quite a lot better, thanks to either the right decisions or coincidence running the show despite all the formulaic planning.

Let‘s get one thing straight though: THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE is full of clichés, known motifs, familiar pace and punch lines, predictable plot points and ending. So you’ll have to look elsewhere for inventive filmmaking. But if you seek compensation for the time you wasted on AIRBENDER just try THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE. It’s as good as American multiplex fodder gets.

I dare to say that Cage is great as a very laconic, humorous version of Balthazar. Baruchel is perfect as nerdy twen gone wild. Palmer is a wonderful down-to-earth love interest (while Megan Fox’s porn chic is really wearing off). Molina has another great role as evil Horvath, playing the character with depth and esprit. The effects and the action rock as you’d expect from a Bruckheimer production.

But most of all it’s the script that despite its conventional structure and expected situations features some smart dialogue and black humor throughout. Neither would the dialogue work with other actors, nor would the actors work with different dialogue. It’s all falling into place, and it feels like you can’t change a single component without ruining the whole movie.

Thanks to everything being the way it is THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE is great, unassuming entertainment. I do not care much if it tanks at the box office, and I wouldn’t understand why it should be less successful than AIRBENDER at the end of the day. THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE showcases why Hollywood is what it is, at least on a good day when every little thing it does is magic.

J.


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