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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Lacking Magic

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s second try this summer to grab summer blockbuster dollars is, like almost every film this summer (with the lone exception of Toy Story 3 ), lackluster, unoriginal, and uninspired. It’s a generic, loud, exhausting mash-up of overly familiar elements — some haphazardly borrowed from the Harry Potter franchise — with the best or, from the evidence, second-best visual effects Disney’s money can buy.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has not one, but two prologues. The first prologue sets up the centuries-long conflict between three sorcerers, Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) on one side, and Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) on the other. Along with Balthazar and Veronica, Maxim apprenticed with Merlin (James A. Stephens), King Arthur’s chief sorcerer. Spurned by Veronica (she chose Balthazar), Maxim allies himself with Morgana (Alice Krige), an evil sorceress and Merlin’s enemy.

Twelve centuries and change later, Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) wanders into a New York City magic shop, Arcana Cabana, where he encounters Balthazar and accidentally frees Maxim. Balthazar manages to hold Maxim prisoner for ten years in an urn. When he escapes, he pursues Dave (Jay Baruchel), now a physics student at NYU, hoping to retrieve a nesting doll that holds several powerful Morganians and Morgana herself. Luckily, Balthazar finds him first and begins training him for the eventual apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

The apocalyptic storyline is partly counterbalanced by Dave’s awkward attempts to romance an old acquaintance, Becky (Teresa Palmer). It’s a by-the-numbers subplot that offers zero surprises. It’s meant to parallel Balthazar’s great love for the absent Veronica, but comes off more as a chaste infatuation than a serious romance. For the remainder of the film, we get several, semi-impressively staged, ultra-expensive, effects-heavy sorcerer battles — none, thankfully, with any wands; just a lot of hand motions, deeply furrowed brows, and multi-colored light shows.

Given the overly familiar storyline concocted by five credited writers (and who knows how many uncredited writers), we should expect more from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Instinct, While You Were Sleeping) doesn’t deliver.

Nicholas Cage as Balthazar and Alfred Molina — both old pros — don’t bring any energy or enthusiasm to their scenes. Jay Baruchel gives a one-note performance as the awkward, sexually naïve twenty-something, a character type already perfected by Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg who were obviously working on other projects.