The Sorcerer's Apprentice
July 16, 2010
On the Big Board
|The effects in this are really good, and the adult-child vibe is far less creepy than in Cirque du Freak.
|I bet the motions would appreciate it if Nic Cage stopped going through them.
I am fairly confident that if I were a producer, and I had walked into Walt Disney Studios two years ago to pitch a feature length motion picture based on the ten minute The Sorcerer’s Apprentice sketch from Fantasia (1940), I’d have been led out of the room in irons and thrown from the top of Sleeping Beauty Castle. But my name isn’t Jerry Bruckheimer; when Jerry Bruckheimer wants something made it’s usually a question of when and not if. So this summer, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice storms into theaters with a massive budget, an appealing cast and some of the biggest wigs in Hollywood standing behind it. While this doesn’t guarantee success, there’s a consistent look and feel to a Bruckheimer production, from the first pre-release teasers to the closing credits. And while I love an enlightening, artistically potent motion picture as much as the next guy – when you’re putting together a summer blockbuster, the first and most important thing to consider is that the audience must never be bored. Though Bruckheimer is often fingered as the godfather of the Big Dumb Movie, I’ve never ever heard anyone call him boring. But before you accuse me of being a homer for Jerry, please consider that I happen to dislike as many of his films as not – but after viewing the currently available trailers for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I have come to the conclusion that like it or not, this one’s going to be anything but boring.
As I mentioned, the film is based on the segment of the same name from the film Fantasia, which is in turn based on the classic poem by Johann Goethe. I suspect Goethe is spinning in his grave about now, but once he sees the international box office numbers I imagine he’ll rest easy. The plot of the film will be greatly expanded from that of the shorter version, primarily borrowing the concept of a magician and his upstart apprentice rather than hemming to a literal interpretation. In the updated story, master sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Nicholas Cage) must battle his ancient nemesis Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) for the fate of the world, with the help of reluctant recruit Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), the pupil for whom Blake has searched for ages. Expect to see cameos from a cadre of walking broomsticks, and obviously George Lucas was tapped as a consultant for his skill with character names. This is clearly going to be the standard good versus evil, wise-old-master-teaches-squeamish-sidekick the ropes in seven easy steps kind of story. No doubt there’s going to be some of that "ancient prophecy/chosen-one" business in play here as well. For the record, I’ve always had a problem with Hollywood’s obsession with making it seem as though you can teach someone something that takes years of patient study in the time it takes to germinate an avocado. But I guess when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, anything is possible. If Mark Hamill can become a Jedi in three weeks, so can Jay Baruchel. It may all be trite and familiar but all Disney is trying to do here is sell tickets, and when something works, it works. If you’re looking for penetrating drama, those usually come out in the fall.
Like most well constructed popcorn actioners, Apprentice looks set to hit all the right notes: Easy to digest story arc? Check. Manhattan in danger? Check. A quirky anti-hero with a funny hat and a Southern California accent? Check. A skinny, mop-headed twenty-something sidekick who’s awkward with girls but has a witty rejoinder for every occasion? Check. Sinister villain with a dapper wardrobe, walking cane, British accent and stable of chop-socky henchmen? Yea, verily so. Tens of millions of dollars worth of eye-popping visual effects? As Sarah Palin would say, you betcha! And of course there’s the most important factor of all and that is Jerry Bruckheimer sitting on a beach smoking hundred dollar bills after the film bows to a $70 million opening weekend. You get used to seeing a master craftsman succeed at what he does, and Bruckheimer hitting one out of the park in July is as familiar as Peyton Manning leading a come from behind destruction of your favorite team with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice promises to be a fairly predictable, paint by numbers summer thrill ride in the tradition of the Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure franchises. Were those good movies? Not at all, but they sure were a heck of a lot of fun. And in the dog days of summer when keeping the kids happy for an afternoon is priority number one, that’s all most people are really looking for. (Bruce Hall/BOP)