Monday, July 19, 2010

‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’: Amateur wizardry

Nicolas Cage plays a patient immortal wizard, Balthazar, in Disney’s derivative but somewhat diverting “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” directed by “National Treasure’s” John Turteltaub.

Balthazar must find and train a powerful young wizard while fending off ancient enemies. The chosen young mage, Dave Sutler (Jay Baruchel from “Tropic Thunder”), is a dorky college guy who witnessed a mystic battle between Balthazar and his arch-rival Horvath (Alfred Molina) when he was a child.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” like other fantasy-adventure flicks made for younger audiences--“Percy Jackson,” “Eragon,” “The Seeker” and so on--is about an ordinary teen destined for greatness, transformed by an old conflict that he’ll affect significantly. Structurally, the film is very familiar; there aren’t real surprises storywise. The young hero is a generic nerd who discovers extraordinary gifts and pursues a girl against his master’s wishes. How “Star Wars”-ish, but it’s nowhere near as serious as that.

The magic training is a crash course; Balthazar teaches the chosen one the most important lessons in a short period. The interruptions, whether caused by foes or dates, are expected. There’s forced friction between Dave and his mentor from time to time.

The action sequences are loud and gaudy with special effects; they either fascinate (the dragon attack scenes) or annoy (Dave catching and casting magical energy with hands positioned a la “Dragonball’s” Goku). But despite the rehashed ideas and imagery, it’s still a solid enough effort. Its lighter, less serious tone works favorably, diminished magic notwithstanding.

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