The Sorcerer's Apprentice review - Regardless of plot, director, script or storyline, you’re always guaranteed one area of mind-boggling entertainment from a Nicolas Cage movie: the wig.
And in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, he doesn’t disappoint, rocking a kind of shaggy Aerosmith-meets-hobo piece, which goes perfectly well with his leather trench coat to complete the look of Balthazar Blake, a master sorcerer tasked with the pesky job of protecting modern-day New York from the wickedness of Maxim Horvath (a movie-stealing Alfred Molina).
Like Cage’s hair, the story itself has twisted roots: it began as an 18th Century German stanza, which 100 years later was adapted into a French symphonic piece, which ultimately was featured in the Disney classic Fantasia (referenced late on).
It’s a backstory as convoluted as that woven here by Sorcerer’s many credited scribes: within the first 20 minutes we ping from Britain 740AD to the present, introducing along the way a Tolkien-load of characters with tongue-knotting names.
Dense? It makes the rules of Quidditch look like tiddlywinks. But you don’t need to worry too much about all that. Jon National Treasure Turteltaub’s blockbuster boils down to a familiar tale of good versus evil, wherein Cage recruits an apprentice, geek Dave Stutler (over-mannered Jay Baruchel), to stop Molina’s Horvath and his own assistant Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell in fine form) from releasing the souls trapped in ‘The Grimhold’ (think Russian nesting dolls) and ending the world.
Stutler makes for a frustrating audience surrogate, an oddly reluctant pupil who just wants to “live a normal life”. Alan Sugar would fire this Apprentice in no time: where’s the wide-eyed wonder? If the characters aren’t feeling it, why should the audience?
A subplot that has Stutler pursuing long-time crush Teresa Palmer (paralleling Cage’s bid to rescue beau Monica Bellucci) doesn’t help. Not that there aren’t scenes that tickle the senses, especially for viewers impatient for Deathly Hallows.
With Jerry Bruckheimer on the producer’s throne, the CG set-pieces are big, silly and vivid, whether someone’s flying a New York landmark through the sky, turning a Ferrari into a garbage truck or getting a plasma ball in the nuts. And there’s a palpable lift whenever Cage and Molina engage in ham-to-ham combat.
Lots of conditioned strands, then, shame about the matted whole; this apprentice needed a bit longer at school.
Bruckheimer waves his wand at another would-be franchise, but the magic’s sporadic. Good-looking blockbusting-by-numbers.