Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (***)

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The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  121 mins.  PG.  Directed by Jon Turteltaub.  Written by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal & Matt Lopez.  Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, and Monica Bellucci.

Jerry Bruckheimer's latest attempt to take a pop cultural artifact (here, the Mickey and brooms sequence from Fantasia) and turn it into box office gold is a generic and mildly diverting family adventure comedy.  And while it's much better than Prince of Persia, Bruckheimer's other offering from this year, it isn't quite as clever or charming as the National Treasure movies, on which director Jon Turteltaub and Nicolas Cage previously collaborated.
Cage stars as Balthazar, one of three disciples of the legendary sorcerer Merlin, who's been locked in a century-spanning battle with the other two (Alfred Molina and Monica Bellucci).  This battle will continue until the so-called chosen one is found.  Believe it or not, Jay Baruchel, as Dave, is that chosen one, and the movie plays like one big training session as Balthazar readies Dave to fulfill his destiny and bring an end to the evil sorcerers once and for all.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is full of magic - though I mean, literally so.   There is a lot of magic being flung about on screen by the characters.  I don't think the movie itself is all that magical.  The special effects are plentiful, but unimpressive.  Director Turteltaub doesn't really have a distinctive visual style, but at least he keeps the movie well-paced and keeps the audience engaged.  He does have an unfortunate tendency to throw in stale pop songs from time to time though.
Cage is in fine, crazy-haired form here, and Baruchel is an awkward delight.  You can't help but root for the guy, though, as he's shown in Knocked Up and Undeclared, he is capable of more than just some Disneyfied, squeaky-clean man-boy character.  There's a cute romance between Baruchel's Dave and his longtime crush played by Teresa Palmer, punctuated by a terrific scene of the two in a cage while electric bolts circle all around them in time with music.  Enjoyable while it lasts, but instantly forgettable.

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