6 April 2011 | Theothervip
A decent surprise.
Rating: **1/2 out of 4.
I had little to no expectations for Disney's latest animated-to-live- action translation THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. It looked like serviceable popcorn entertainment; lots of jarring CGI effects and slapstick humor. Turns out it's true that minimal expectations help in seeing a movie in its own terms and, as family-film trifle, APPRENTICE delivers, if not much else.
Exposition abounds when we are introduced to the plot, which opens in 700 A.D., where great Wizard Merlin is killed by his evil adversary Morgana (Alice Krige, in it for only a few minutes), and passes his legacy to one of his young apprentices, Balthazar (holy smoke! It's Nicholas Cage!). Before his death, Merlin hands him a tiny dragon statuette which turns into a ring which would determine the great wizard's heir. Oh yeah, Balthazar also traps the souls of other wizards, including the evil Morgana and sweetheart Monica Bellucci (barely in it for other than being, well, Monica Bellucci) inside a nesting doll called the Grimhold. Forward a thousand centuries later and Balthazar, still in search of the bearer of Merlin's gifts, finally comes upon a boy named Dave Stutler (who is what else? A total nerd!). Forward a few years more and Dave, now a geeky teenager (Jay Baruchel), is now ready to be trained with the Magical Arts (which, the movie explains, is actually more connected to modern science than we thought) and save the world.
Whew! That's a lot of plot exposition for a movie based around a segment in Disney's Fantasia (with Mickey Mouse no less!). And it moves so quickly from one situation to the other. But better to throw in dozens of special effects and action sequence. The special effects are nothing new; the CGI reeks of CGI circa 1990. But this comes off a charm. With so many movies around throwing out fantasy for realism (meaning lots of shaky "you are there" camera work), THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE is a pretty close throwback to some of those 80's effects-heavy fantasy movies usually associated with Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic effects house (the film reminds most of the effects-laden YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES when I saw the trailer). It's not so much as true movie magic than simply throwing in as much effects as they can to substitute for a lackluster action-oriented story.
The actors aren't in such bad shape. Cage, who's been on the slums lately, is pretty good here though it's a bit of a stretch to call it an improvement over some of his previous roles. But he does have more fun here and I had more fun with him here; it's in this role did I get the feeling that he knows very well that he looks ridiculous and goes to hell with it. Same goes for Alfred Molina, turning in deliciously campy baddie with an accent Horvath. These two guys do better than the rest of the younger members. Baruchel is trying too hard to be your total loser- turned-hero character when he really shouldn't. He seemed fine doing voice-over in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, but he can't bring the role from animated world to reality. Teresa Palmer is your typical girl-of-your- dreams leading dame. Some actors (Bellucci, Krige) barely makes what passes as appearances.
THE SORCEROR'S APPRENTICE is fun, and at a time where movies like these fail to deliver such simple mercies, it's a pleasant little surprise.