THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE: Counter Programming My Brain Did Not Work

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) – Directed by Jon Turtletaub – Starring Nicholas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Alice Krige, and Monica Bellucci.

Straight up – this movie didn’t have much of a chance with me, so feel free to completely disregard anything that follows, if you’re so inclined. I think Nicholas Cage is an actor that’s almost completely jumped the tracks. I think Jay Baruchel is the most annoying young actor of his generation. Every trailer and ad that I saw for THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE made me think it was a bland hodgepodge of tired summer cliches, some weird Frankenstein of Harry Potter and Spider-Man with the costumes left over from The Dresden Files.

So why would I bother watching it?

A few reasons. One is that this is the team that brought us the entertaining National Treasure films, so I thought if anyone could get the best out of Cage by reigning Cage in it would be Turtletaub. Two is that Netflix keeps putting this movie on the front of my “Watch Instantly” page and I’m tired of looking at it. But three, and what really got me to hit play on this movie tonight was that I was trying to counter program my own brain.

Last night I watched Black Swan and had high expectations that were not met, so I figured maybe the universe would spin in my favor tonight by watching a movie that I had low expectations about and have it turn out okay.

Nope.

SORCERER’S APPRENTICE is a really bland, paint-by-numbers collection of bits and pieces of other movies. It has scenes just because other movies have scenes. There’s nothing original here, except, I suppose, the silly “Merlinians” vs. “Morganians” nonsense.

The idea is that a long, long time ago Merlin had three apprentices: Nick Cage, Monica Bellucci, and Alfred Molina. (Trust me, names are not important. You’ll never see these actors as the roles they’re allegedly playing.) Then Alfred Molina went evil and … Alice Krige ended up having her soul eaten by Monica Bellucci and then Monica Bellucci got put in a doll forever and ever. Or at least until this movie came around.

Cage then spends all these years looking for something called the Prime Merlinian because maybe this will make people think of Transformers. The Prime Merlinian is the only person in the entire world who can kill Morgana. Which is important because she’s trapped in a doll she can’t ever get out of unless someone shoots energy at satellite dishes. No, wait, that’s what you need to do if you want to raise an army of the dead all over the world. To stop this “Rising,” you have to perform an incredible feat of magic.

You have to kick a satellite dish over.

No, no, not seventeen of them or eleven of them or two of them. Just one. Just. One. And all the rising dead go poof.

Anyway, this Prime Merlinian character is the Chosen One because … well, because Merlin said that the Prime Merlinian would be the one. How does he know this? DO NOT QUESTION MERLIN! That’s how he knows this.

So Cage goes all over the world looking for the Prime Merlinian, putting this dragon ring into the hands of kids and waiting for it to come to life. It never does. Until one day, random chance brings a kid into a magic store in New York City and ta-da! The dragon comes to life! Hooray! Time to start the movie!

Well, no. Because the kid accidentally opens the top layer of the nesting doll, releasing Alfred Molina, and then Cage and Molina end up trapped … in an urn that hold people for EXACTLY TEN YEARS. Why ten years? Why the f*ck not ten years?

So this likable kid grows up to be Jay Baruchel, who doesn’t want to be a wizard and doesn’t want to speak in a voice that won’t make your ears bleed. Nick Cage is like, “You’re the Chosen One,” and Jay Baruchel is like, “I don’t want to be the Chosen One,” and Nick Cage is like, “Just help me this one time and you won’t have to be the Chosen One,” so Baruchel helps him and then decides, “I want to be the Chosen One,” but then Cage makes him practice and Baruchel decides, “I don’t want to be the Chosen One,” and then he does and then he doesn’t and then …

Damn, this is stupid.

I hate movies about people who don’t want to be something cool. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s the only thing in movies more annoying that Jay Baruchel’s voice. Well, okay, there’s maybe ten things in movies more annoying than Jay Baruchel’s voice.

There are two things about SORCERER’S APPRENTICE that work and might, if I were a kid, keep me entertained for two hours. The first is the special effects, which aren’t so much awesome in their CGI-ness, but awesome in the variety. We’ve got people emerging out of bugs and dust, we’ve got big metal bulls coming to life, a dragon coming to life, fire blazing out across the city sky … APPRENTICE is constantly tossing up one different effect after another.

The second aspect of APPRENTICE that works is Alfred Molina. He’s far too good for this movie because not only does he play his evil wizard perfectly, he elevates both Cage and Baruchel’s performance when he’s on the screen with them.

On the whole, though, there’s just not enough here to make this movie work. It has the stench of “written by committee of marketers” feel to it. That’s the thing that confuses me, too. Who the heck was this movie made for? If it was a kid’s movie, why not have a kid at the center? Are they actually going for the National Treasure/Pirates of the Caribbean audience? Did they just think they could suck off some people desperate for the next Harry Potter film?

Any of those questions are far more interesting than the film itself.

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6 thoughts on “THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE: Counter Programming My Brain Did Not Work

  1. Nice writeup! Yes, this was a terribly weak movie. I certainly don’t mind watching a light-weight movie and in fact, can deliberately go for one at times. I knew that Baruchel was going to be the annoying young apprentice going in, but somehow expected the script or even Cage’s acting to overcome this fact. Sadly, neither did. I couldn’t even justify it’s weakness as a made-for-TV movie, but was left thinking of it more of a ripoff genre movie meant for direct-to-DVD release. Afterwards, I made up for it by watching Cage in “Ghostrider” to get the fantasy out of my system (are they actually making a sequel to that??), then Banderas/Hopkins in “The Mask of Zorro” to get a better view of a young apprentice under tutelage of a master, followed by watching “Raising Arizona” and “Moonstruck” to regain my appreciation for Cage’s acting again.

    And yes, “The Doctor’s Wife” was worth waiting another week to get to a well-scripted Doctor Who again. Not perfect, but very enjoyable.

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  2. There was talk that Cage wants to do Ghost Rider 2 in Europe and turn it into, well, into DaVinci Code or something.

    Cage acts in this movie like he’s the producer. Like he went, “We should get Nic Cage for this role” but then didn’t put any effort into his performance.

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  3. This is the type of movie I like to call a TV Pilot On Steroids. It doesn’t at all feel like how I think a major theatrical feature should feel. It feels like a set-up for a Disney Channel TV series, something to take over once “Wizards of Waverly Place” is over.

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    • That’s a great way to put it. It probably would have worked better as a TV show, when they could spread some of this out. You get the sense the producers thought this film would just work because of Nic Cage and the idea and it just doesn’t. It has that feel of something assembled in marketing more than by a writer.

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