Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language, 110 minutes
Pleasant, mindless "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"
No one has ever accused Nicolas Cage of subtly, at least not intentionally being low-key, but in a remarkable way, he doesn’t overdo it in his new film “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” a live-action remake of the 1940 classic Walt Disney film “Fantasia.” Meanwhile, the film itself is an entertainingly busy big-budget action mish-mash of spectacle and special effects. Much like Jerry Bruckheimer’s other productions, this one is a bit mindless but enjoyable enough if you don’t think about it much.
Balthazar Blake (Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (“She’s Out of My League’s” Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and these unlikely partners will work together to stop the forces of darkness, including an arch-rival sorcerer (Alfred Molina, chewing up scenery).
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is simplistic but guilty-pleasure fun summer entertainment, which isn’t a necessarily bad thing. Cage doesn’t overdo it as he normally does, a pleasantly mild surprise given his penchant to go over-the-top from scene one, and even more surprising given that the director is his “National Treasure” director Jon Turtletaub. Big-screen action adventure flicks like this usually work better when there is a decent pairing, and his apprentice, played by the always-watchable Baruchel works in part because of the tit-for-tat Cage-Baruchel chemistry. Particularly fun is Baruchel’s typical deadpan, monotone delivery that is contrast to Cage’s usual hyper-energy.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is most problematic because of the uneven script with an overload of writers; the mid-section lags and chases too many rabbits and it all ends rather way-too predictably, but there’s enough energetic fun and splashy, expensive special-effects served up Bruckheimer-style that will please the masses. Molina, as he proved in “Spider-Man 2,” shows he’s a deliciously fun, if not milquetoast, villain, but he chews on scenery you may not mind.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is bland, enjoyable and pleasant popcorn-flick fun. A month from now or even a few days from now, you may not remember much of it (“National Treasure” was the same way), but it’s a harmless summer diversion, and that’s not a terrible thing.