Who's In It: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci, Teresa Palmer
The Basics: Nerdo Jay Baruchel finds out he's a sorcerer and has to be trained to use his powers wisely. Also, as usual in movies about this sort of hero's journey, he has to save the world from evil sorcerers bent on destruction. Nicolas Cage is the boss of the good sorcerers and becomes Jay's mentor, but he's actually the kind of crappy mentor who's got jokes and wants to bro it up more than he wants to mentor you. Consequently the kid is always in some kind of danger. Then, on schedule, like an efficient on-time subway, comes the big showdown. It'll mostly make you wonder how brutally the people at Disney are kicking themselves for not watching that old Mickey Mouse-meets-dancing-mops segment in Fantasia and thinking up all this Harry Potter stuff first.
What's The Deal: As an object to look at and be zoomed along in like an amusement park ride--which is all it's meant to be--this movie is pretty much more of the summery same. All the digital effects, all the stuff transforming into other stuff, all the battles, you've seen them before and you've felt them more urgently. But it's still not a miserable failure, just copycattish. The shoehorned-in scene where Baruchel finds himself overwhelmed by mops, even though it has no narrative reason to exist, is more fun to watch than the rest of the film. Then they go away. but it's enough to make you wish the mops had just been the whole movie, Snow White-style, with names like Soapy and Buckethead.
Why It's The Most Metal Movie Of The Summer: Unlike the Harry Potter movies, which take place in their own world with their own unique mythologies, this film operates in contemporary New York and invokes the presence of legendary occult figures. Per square inch it's got more spells, soul-eating, doll-sized spirit coffins, incantations, black magic and pentagrams (on-fire ones, too, with Monica Bellucci writhing in the center trying to conjure up pure evil with her devil breasts) than any movie so far this year. I expected the fox from Antichrist to show up and narrate. Also looking forward to the sequel, Disney's The Littlest Satanic Bible.
The Ongoing Excitement That Is Nicolas Cage: Let's say that, like me, you're a fan of the insane detours his career takes, no matter what those detours look like. You'll only get a little of the man you know and love this time around. Not that he's not in the movie a lot; he very much is. But aside from a few nervy line readings, like when he shouts "I CAN READ MINDS!" at Baruchel or cannonballs the word "ILLUUUUUUSIONS" all crazy-like, mostly this is more like a National Treasure movie than it's like, say, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. And he covers up his wildly entertaining hair with a weird ugly hat. Bummer.