This is Ron Salfen, “At the
Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening this week at The
Majestic Theater in
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” may borrow from a lot of recent
fantasy tales, but it’s kid-friendly, interesting, well-cast, and funny,
which is a winsome combination at any movie.
Nicolas Cage plays Balthazar, one of Merlin’s apprentices who
doesn’t age, but frequently gets stuck in time, trapped in a certain kind
of magic urn. The other two
apprentices, Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci), are
also alternately trapped and conspiring against each other to find the true
owner of Merlin’s own magic ring, which will come to life when “the
chosen one” puts it on.
They’ve been looking for this “chosen one” for, oh, about 1300
years or so. Somewhere along
the line, this turned into a love triangle, and though Veronica chose
Balthazar over Horvath, forever creating enmity between those two, Veronica
herself seems to be inhabited by some sort of evil spirit that seeks to
destroy everything. (Well, in
true Disney fashion, evil has to appear somewhere.
In this case, it’s just particularly ill-defined.)
Dave (Jay Baruchel) is just a 10-year-old kid when he first enters
Balthazar’s bizarre magic store, and the ring immediately finds his finger
and latches on there. But
Balthazar is being pursued by the relentless Horvath, and it’s another 10
years before Dave, now a nerdy 20-year-old physics student, again becomes
enmeshed in the centuries-old cosmic struggle.
However, there’s a good part of Dave that doesn’t want to be
bothered with becoming a principal player in gothic combat with universal
implications: mainly, he just
wants to fiddle with his scientific experiments in his basement, and maybe
impress a girl from school, Becky (Teresa Palmer).
Balthazar, of course, doesn’t take “no” for an answer so
easily, and soon Dave is training for the giant struggle he feels he
didn’t sign up for: learning
to work his dormant magic skills (shades of Luke Skywalker being taught the
ways of The Force, or even Harry Potter going to Hogwarts).
And, of course, there are those using their “special abilities”
for selfish ends, and, just to complicate matters, Horvath manages to plant
the seed in David’s mind that Balthazar himself could be the one acting
out of self-interest, thus confusing who the “good guy” is in all this.
Horvath, too, has an apprentice, eerily reminiscent of one of the
“donkey boys” in Pinocchio: lazy,
self-absorbed, and destined to underachieve.
Of course we all want Dave to wake up and tap into his great
potential, and accept his destiny as the reluctant world savior, while at
the same time getting the girl and not becoming too full of himself in the
process. As expected, the
relationship between Dave and Balthazar, at first strained, becomes an
important transition for both.
There’s a wonderful little scene with runaway mops and buckets, a
fitting tribute to the classic Disney sequence in “Fantasia.” Cage is
toned down just enough to be intense without being too wacko, Molina is just
greasy enough to be creepy villainous without being pathologically demented,
and Baruchel does this shambling, awkward, “aw shucks” routine that
works because he wears the mantle of deadly-seriousness very lightly.
In a summer filled with bloodletting violence, bloodsucking vampires,
and bloodless parlor dramas, this film feels like a crowd-pleaser.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The
Movies,” for 93.5 KICK-FM