There are a lot of source materials that can be used as the basis of a movie. Traditionally novels, stage plays, comic books and even songs have found their way on to the big screen, but now a segment in a feature-length animated movie has been expanded into a full-length film; ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’ It started as the most popular and famous section of the Walt Disney Studio’s classic feature ‘Fantasia.’ In the original animation, the title role is played by Mickey Mouse who gets into all sorts of mischief playing around with his master’s magical workshop. For the version here the action has shifted to computer-generated special effects enhancing live performances featuring some very notable actors making up the cast. With only a few minutes of screen time available, this film is an entirely new project with the obligatory scene included to pay homage to the original but other than the title and the patented Disney magic there is little actually to tie the films together. Fortunately, that is sufficient to provide a reasonably entertaining time for the entire family. Admittedly this is not a great film or even the best wizard in training flick, obviously but it is special effects driven roller coaster ride that may be a touch light on story but makes up for it within the moment excitement. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with a film that is not a deep consideration of themes. The film is an extremely inclusive art form, and light-hearted entertainment is a legitimate use of this media. In fact, it is more than a little pretentious to condemn a flick only because it doesn’t aspire to project profound addenda. This is especially applicable for a family-oriented flick like this one. Most people don’t make a family movie night out of a philosophical film; they go for the good old fashion popcorn movie and to that goal the movie succeeded in reaching its goal.
If you are going to stretch a few minutes into a full-length movie, it helps if the screenwriters have some experience with similar stories. Fortunately, the authors associated here have resumes consistent with this requirement. Matt Lopez has worked on ‘Bedtime Stories’ and ‘Race to Witch Mountain,’ both successful projects for Disney. Carlo Bernard worked on the script for the magic driven ‘The Prince of Persia’ and co-wrote ‘The Uninvited’ and ‘The Great Raid’ with the third credited author here, Doug Miro. The screenplay here, as previously mentioned, not going to win any awards for storytelling. It has several plot holes and falls short of being internally consistent and cohesive. Again the point is a strong story is always nice to have but not a requirement in this venue. This is a modernized fairy tale blended with a variation of the classic heroic journey. This is targeted for a younger demographic, so the main goal was to have fun not to create very elaborate world such as other magic franchises have done. This is a flick to enjoy not one that needs its wiki to understand. The director is helming this flick also possesses the right kind of experience; Jon Turteltaub. Not only is he used to directing action but he has worked with the studio and primary star on the pair of ‘National Treasure movies with Nicholas Cage.
Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is almost 1,300 years old owing his longevity to his vocation, sorcerer. In 740 CE he was one of three sorcery students apprenticed to the greatest practitioner of the craft, Merlin (James A. Stephens). His fellow apprentice back then was Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) who betrayed their master to join his evil adversary Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige). Morgana kills Merlin in front of Balthazar and the third apprentice, Veronica Gorloisen (Monica Bellucci). For centuries after that Balthazar diligently worked out of sight from the public to protect New York City while Morgana’s essence trapped in Veronica’s body which imprisoned in the magical jail called the Grimhold. Before his death, Merlin passes his Dragon ring to Balthazar. This makes him the one and only Prime Merlinian, the most powerful good sorcerer of his time. Over the centuries Balthazar battles and imprisons followers of Morgana seeking to free her. As the new millennium is about to ring in Balthazar finds a young boy, Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) and he gives the boy a ring in hopes he will become his successor. Ten years later Dave (Jay Baruchel) is a young man studying for his degree in physics at New York University. At this point, a ten year the held Balthazar and Maxim in a vase id opened, and both sorcerers are freed. Now Balthazar has to find the Grimhold and recapture the evil villains, bent on destroying the world. Along the way, Balthazar has to train Dave in the use of magic against the backdrop of New York City.
Turteltaub and the team of special effects wizards at his command make the most of the plot using it as a scaffold for a wild effects laden rides to come around in quite awhile. As a native of the city, it was a great deal of fun watching everyday sights around town take on a magical air. One of the best is when Balthazar turns a metal eagle from mid town’s Chrysler Building or the bull stature down in Bowling Green. This is a venerable technique, but the reason it is so familiar is it works. When you juxtapose the mundane with the fantastic, the result is a greater believability on the part of the audience. It also showcases just how great the strides computer generated graphics continue to make. Another good plot devised is having the Grimhold as a repository for a series of villains. This permits the plot economy of one magical artifact as the source of aeries of adversaries. Molina has a name as one of the best character actors around who recently has been moving towards starring roles. He plays it to the hilt opposite Gage who has been working on this gruff persona for the better part of his career. You will be greatly pleased by the Blu-ray presentation which adds texture and realism to the proceedings. Reinforcing this is the DTS soundtrack that is robust allowing you almost to hear the wind as you ride atop a giant steel bird.
Posted 11/18/2010 02/15/2018