The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Review: More Entertaining Then Magical

There is an unwritten rule somewhere that audiences love their summer blockbusters to feature the unlikeliest of societal reject imaginable to be our planet’s savior. The more askew the hero from the norm, the more entertaining their bumbling and unusual path to glory is.

Disney’s latest PG-rated collaboration with Nicolas Cage and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, casts this popular spell on audiences with predictable side effects.

She’s Out of My League dweeb Jay Baruchel plays the penultimate physics nerd, David, who spends his spare time toying with plasma arrays in a sewer. His channeling of Justin Long’s sarcasm is often aimed at Balthazar Blake (Nicholas Cage), a way too serious sorcerer wandering the globe for over a thousand years in search of the Prime Merlinean (hint: it’s David, not a Transformer robot). This chosen one is a descendant of Merlin and the only person capable of stopping Morgana, an evil sorceress whom Horvath (Alfred Molina) hopes to free from a magic-induced imprisonment so she can raise the dead and ravish the world.

Targeting Disney for playing the nerd card in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is easy but at least there’s a correlation between the stereotype and the plot. In a rather ingenious connection between magic and science, it turns out the reason sorcerers are who they are because they can use the parts of a brain other humans cannot. They are in essence geniuses, even if scraggly old Balthazar looks or behaves nothing like one.

Like any nerd, David is not interested in risking his life to save anyone. He’d rather impress his Mary Jane Watson, Becky (Teresa Palmer), who popped back into his life the same time Balthazar did. Once David actually turns down learning sorcery to woo Becky, there’s no creative answer for the predictable “now I’m interested, now I’m not” path through a series of CGI-filled chases he takes up to squaring off with Morgana in a lackluster display of the Prime Merlinean’s true powers. David is more convincing firing off one-liners than conjuring balls of energy in the palm of his hands.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice could have escaped the plot trappings of National Treasure and countless other summer films if it let the villains at least partially win for no other reason than they deserved to. Horvath and his pseudo apprentice Drake Stone (Toby Kebell), a brainless grunge version of David Blaine, are more colorful and seemingly interested in succeeding than David and Balthazar. There’s not enough of Horvath belittling Drake or Drake, far more in tune with pop culture than this master, stealing the film with one simple perfectly timed and read throwaway line. It’s guaranteed to bring the house down.

Formulaic summer entertainment is what The Sorcerer’s Apprentice delivers under the guise of magic and strength of the existing Disney brand. If Inception is meant to jar our intellect and rattle our nerves, then The Sorcerer’s Apprentice provides a pretty decent foot rub.

– Dan Bradley

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