Just before the start of this new Disney fantasy-adventure, the 10-year-old kid sitting next to me — who sneaked into the press section — looked at me authoritatively and announced, “This is a live remake of Fantasia.”
I laughed and told him it wasn’t. But he insisted. “Yes it is, with mops and brooms and everything.”
Bottom line: The kid watches too many preview trailers, and I don’t watch any. Sure enough, late in the film, there’s a sequence right out of Mickey Mouse’s misadventures with mops, brooms and water, to the strains of some Paul Dukas-like music.
Unfortunately, the scene is of the sore-thumb variety, sticking out from and momentarily bogging down The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Too bad, since the rest of this movie — though hovering at times too close to Harry Potter territory — is a fun, action-packed romp through magic and wizardry. It’s an ideal film for that 10-year-old and any of his friends within a few years of that age.
The star of the film is supposed to be Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder, How To Train Your Dragon) as Dave, a physics nerd who must, you know, save the world. Baruchel, with a great pompadour hairstyle and arched eyebrows, holds his own in the part, though he might want to wind down the whine next time. But more eyes are going to be on two other actors: Nic Cage as former Merlin apprentice Balthazar, who is determined to make the unassuming
Dave a great wizard, and Alfred Molina as Maxim, a former Merlin apprentice-turned-villain, who wants to kill Dave. Both ragged Cage and dapper Molina take their roles very seriously, infusing them with an offbeat sense of humor that doesn’t become exaggerated.
Important hint: If you want to be able to follow the story, pay close attention to the babbling narrator who sets it all up at the beginning. But once it all gets going — once dragons come alive, and plasma bolts start flying, and we learn about Tesla coils — the plot details become less important.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is all about its visual effects, many of them charmingly old-fashioned, a few of them eye-boggling. There’s too much vanilla pop music and the fight scenes become repetitive, but the film’s energy is unrelenting, and the actors all seem to be having a ball.