Who's In It: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Monica Bellucci, Omar Benson Miller, Alice Krige
The Basics: Nicolas Cage is an eccentric and semi-unwashed wizard named Balthazar who learned his trade from Merlin, the O.G. magic man. Jay Baruchel is Dave, a mild-mannered college age science nerd who could use a semester or two abroad at Hogwarts. At least that Potter kid learned how to kiss a girl, which is farther than Dave can get with his childhood crush (Teresa Palmer). When Balthazar's old foe (Alfred Molina) threatens to free a super witch (Alice Krige, the Borg queen) from a magical doll and wreak havoc on New York City, Dave must find his inner hero and help Balthazar save the world. Blah blah magical spell blah.
What's The Deal: Loosely -- and I mean really loosely -- based on the famous Mickey Mouse number from Fantasia (there's a sorcerer and an apprentice and an homage to those out of control cleaning supplies), this big-budget, live-action adaptation looks more like something pieced together from the Hollywood action-adventure playbook than a film worthy of claiming inspiration from the Golden Age of Disney. We expected as much from the trio that brought us those National Treasure mega blockbusters (director Jon Turteltaub, star Nic Cage, and super producer Jerry Bruckheimer), who here almost do for science what National Treasure did for history, making a ho-hum school subject come alive by taking a few creative liberties. (Magic is based on physics, kids!*) But despite being filled with the kind of eye-popping CGI set pieces and clever-on-paper PG-friendly banter that summer audiences eat up like popcorn, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is only mildly amusing overall, and much more tedious than a fantasy-filled summer popcorn flick should be.
Things It Took Five Screenwriters To Come Up With: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, and Mark Lopez are credited with dreaming up the story while Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard helped write the screenplay. Maybe that's why the film never lets up its relentless parade of CGI-enhanced action: the final script became overstuffed with everyone's neato ideas to the point that there's virtually no room left for characters to breathe, or the audience to rest, between fantastical set pieces. Magical needle showers! A dragon chasing Jay Baruchel through a Chinatown confetti festival! A tesla coil symphony covering Steve Wonder's "Superstitious"! A pentagram of fire lighting up all of Manhattan while Monica Bellucci flails about and chants scary-voice incantations! (The latter should have those Satan-worshipping Disney enthusiasts clamoring at the box office.)
What Director Jon Turteltaub Does Well, Besides Searing Your Eyeballs With That Relentless Barrage of CG Action: He allows his cast to shine. Baruchel, who's starting to find his niche as a geek romantic lead, is charming as the nerdling hero who must overcome years of insecurity to tap into his potential. He plays well with the straight faced Nicolas Cage, who marries his patented brand of crazy with a touch of romance as the exasperated mentor who secretly yearns to set his beloved free. Together, they strike a nice chemistry. In fact, the entire cast makes it through the film's breakneck pace so gamely that you can't help but like them despite all else.
The Movie's Secret Weapon: English actor Toby Kebbell (Control, RocknRolla), who also appeared in Bruckheimer's other summer flick, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, along with co-star (and villain-in-arms) Alfred Molina. As a sorcerer who's used his skills to become a pretentious, Criss Angel-styled peacock of a magician, Kebbell is pitch-perfect in his douchebaggery. And in a fantasy action pic packed with obvious references to other fantasy movie properties (including Toy Story, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Braveheart), it's Kebbell's delivery of a line from Star Wars that gives The Sorcerer's Apprentice its most unexpected laugh.
* Not really.