I kind of adore Nicolas Cage. My friends think he’s a terrible and unforgivably over-the-top actor, and I can’t totally disagree. But Cage has an ability, and I think he’s totally aware of this, to elevate a movie to a completely different mode of enjoyment that always pays off. I mean, I love this video of everything awful in The Wicker Man; but I think he’s winking at us the whole way through. So the idea of Cage playing a shaggy-haired wizard in New York City fighting Alfred Molina, well, fuck. That just sounds as awesome as a big bag of jellybeans.
But at the same time, this movie, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who never seems as interested in delivering a good film as he does in delivering a big movie. Which one would go on to have more influence on the film – Cage, a man of supreme campy ability, or Bruckheimer, more interested in glossy spectacle than story?
Probably Bruckheimer. Cage isn’t ever allowed to carry this film, as he turns out to be a supporting character to Jay Baruchel (playing a geeky college kid named Dave). He likes science, what a weirdo! What’s up with that? He can barely talk to a girl without freaking out, but is kind of brilliant when it comes to understanding Physics.
Which ends up being useful, when the magical Cage (as a character named fucking Balthazar, I might add) drops into his life to inform Jay that he’s the magical savior of mankind that isn’t Jesus. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice attempts to explain magic – or more specifically, the telekinetic property of magic practiced by the characters – as being a property of Physics most people aren’t capable of understanding or harnessing. It’s a pretty dumb explanation, but it also works well with the dumb fun brand of film that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is interested in being.
The movie is directed by Jon Turteltaub, who was responsible for the decently fun National Treasure films (and, on an awesomer note, 3 Ninjas). Actually, Turteltaub’s involvement got me just as excited as Cage’s, but he doesn’t manage to insert as much silly, recycled-from-better-movie fun as with the two National Treasures.
There’s a lot of kind of cool magic, and there’s a kind of likable role from Baruchel (even if he brings nothing new to it), and on occasion Cage gets kind of silly. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice certainly isn’t a failure of a film, it just fails to do anything with much success. It’s a highly mediocre film, and for many that will be enough. But as someone who actually walked in with some expectations, however foolish that may have been, I can’t help but be disappointed.