The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Disney has happily spun recent films out of everything from video games (Prince Of Persia) to a theme park ride (Pirates Of The Caribbean) - but this might well be the first time a film has taken its inspiration from an animated snippet involving Mickey Mouse. Still, the segment in Fantasia, which sees the world's favourite rodent fall foul of household cleaning equipment (haven't we all?) provides the starting point for this slice of magical adventure. The end result, in fact, owes a much greater debt to the retro classics such as Ghostbusters than older Disney and is, in many ways, all the better for it.

The problem with creating a story from virtually nothing, is that you have to clue the audience in on the myth that you are trying to create - which is the biggest failing of Jon Turteltaub's film. A section of leaden, and virtually interminable, narration attempts to set the scene and despite the earnestness with which we are told how three ancient students of Merlin fought side by side until love tore them apart and turned them into enemies, you can't help but wish they would just get on with the spell-casting, already. Still, at least by front-loading the exposition - which also reveals how one of the mages, Balthazar (Nic Cage, hair by Dougal), trapped evil Morgana Le Fey (Alice Krige, hair by Kate Bush on a bad day) in the magical equivalent of a Russian doll - means that once we've been told the set up, we are at liberty to more or less forget about it and enjoy the fun.


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Centuries on from their original battle, Balthazar is, despite all the Arthurian set up, now living in modern-day New York as guardian of the doll - or the Grimhold, to give it its Sunday name - which has grown over the centuries to hold a veritable coven of evil witch types along with his old girlfriend (Monica Belluci, hair by Kate Bush on a good day), who got into a terribly nasty mix up with Morgana. He is awaiting the arrival of the sorcerer who will be able to vanquish Morgana for good. Enter Jay Baruchel (hair by early Nic Cage channeling Elvis). First seen as a young cub on a school trip, it turns out this soon-to-be physics geek is 'the one' - or Prime Merlinian, if you want to buy into the mythology - and it isn't long before he becomes Balthazar's reluctant student. The only problem is, that while he's practicing his plasma manipulation skills, Balthazar's one-time compadre and would-be nemesis Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina, facial hair by Moriarty) is out to kill him.

The key to the best aspects of The Sorcerer's Apprentice is the spot-on casting. Everyone - particularly Nic Cage and Alfred Molina - is having a complete ball. Mixing decent action set-pieces, such as a dragon cutting a flaming swathe through China Town, with some well-judged humour and a believable slice of teenage romance, there's plenty here to enjoy, including a decent live-action version of the famous Mickey and broom scene. Still, Disney always has a tendency to err on the side of caution, choosing the established and familiar route over more crazy - and, let's face it, fun - ideas every time. If they had just let a little more anarchy in, this could really have been a piece of cinematic magic... still, it's enjoyable, doesn't outstay its welcome and there's always a chance they might take it up a notch when it comes to the inevitable sequel.

Copy picture Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2010
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A young sorceror finds himself embroiled in an ancient battle between good and evil in modern New York.
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Director: Jon Turteltaub

Writer: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci, Toby Kebbell, Alice Krige

Year: 2010

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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