Sorcerer's Apprentice, The

The Sorcerer's Apprentice The Sorcerer's Apprentice The Sorcerer's Apprentice The Sorcerer's Apprentice The Sorcerer's Apprentice

As a joint effort, Disney's new comedy-adventure "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" relies on the previous, far more successful collaboration of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub on “National Treasure” franchise, which also starred Nicolas Cage.

 
Disney has decided to move the picture two days ahead and release it on Wednesday, July 14, for fear of competition with the overly hyped picture "Inception," by Christopher Nolan, which is getting rave reviews and nebefit from a huge buzz.
 
Nicolas Cage is both the hero and exec-producer of the new, disappointing picture, which among many faults, never finds the right pace and tone to tell its mildly engaging story, which benefits from a literary pedigree (see below).
 
When a producer like Bruckheimer also gets screen credit, there is a reason to suspect that there were too many cooks behind the scenes, which might explain the incoherent result, a picture that works hard (too hard) to be magical and innovative as an epic comedy adventure—but to no avail.
 
Officially, this mishmash of a script is credited to Matt Lopez and Doug Miro andCarlo Bernard from a screen story by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal and Matt Lopez, but I suspect that the director, Jon Turteltaub also had his hand at writing, not to mention major changes imposed in the editing room.
 
Pushing 50, the endlessly versatile Nicolas Cage, who smoothly navigates from audacious indies to mindless mainstream Hollywood flicks, is now at the age when he needs a younger cohort by his side–for both narrative and demographic reasons: "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is clearly targeted at very young viewers, mostly boys.
 
The old saga, whose roots go centuries back, unfolds as a morality tale in which a sorcerer and his hapless apprentice are swept into the center of an ancient conflict between good and evil.
 
As the tale begins, Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina, in another show-stealing turn). Realizing that he can't do it alone anymore, he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential as his reluctant protégé.
 
In the first chapters, following the conventions of such narratives, the sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice, who stands in for the viewers, a crash course in the art and science of magic. Also familiar is the notion of the Odd Couple, two unlikely partners, who are forced to pit their powers against fiercest and most ruthless villains.
 
Clearly, it's the greatest challenge the novice Dave has had to face, demanding all the courage he can muster, first to survive the very harsh training itself, and then save the city, not to mention struggle and get the desirable girl.
 
What make the production more tolerable and a notch or two above the dreadful is the level of expertise behind the camera, director of photography Bojan Bazelli (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “The Ring”), production designer Naomi Shohan (“I Am Legend”), costume designer Michael Kaplan (“Star Trek,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Armageddon”) and film editor William Goldenberg (“National Treasure” films). The visual effects supervisor is Oscar winner and three-time nominee John Nelson (“Gladiator,” “Iron Man”), the special effects supervisor is Academy Award winner and nine-time nominee John Frazier (“Spider-Man 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” films), and the stunt coordinator is George Marshall Ruge (“Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure” films). The composer is Trevor Rabin (“National Treasure” films, “Armageddon”).
 
To enhance the cultural importance of their enterprise, the filmmakers cite the prestigious literary source. How the origins of their tale go to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German writer, thinker and natural scientist, who penned the poem “Der Zauberlehrling,” an enduring work, in 1797. Goethe’s 14-stanza poem is narrated by the apprentice himself, who, upon being left to his own devices by his old “Hexenmeister,” takes it upon himself to arrogantly demonstrate his own magical arts. The apprentice orders an old broomstick to wrap itself in rags, grow a head and two arms and, with a bucket, prepare a bath for him. The living broomstick fills the tub, and every bowl and cup, and when the apprentice forgets the magic word to make it stop, it results in a massive flood.
 
The resourceful apprentice then takes an axe to the poor old broom, splitting it in twain, thus creating two living broomsticks. The apprentice is finally bailed out by the return of the old hexenmeister, who quickly sends the broom back into the closet, with an imprecation that it will return only when he, the true master, calls it forth to do his bidding.
 
A hundred years later, the poem was adapted into a popular 10-minute symphonic piece, “L’apprenti sorcier,” by the French composer Paul Dukas. An immediate success for its brilliant musical coloration and rhythmic excellence, and its wonderfully jaunty “march of the broomsticks,” the scherzo has stood the test of time and is considered to be Dukas’ most enduring work.
 
Disney discovered it four decades after that, creating an animated version for his immortal “Fantasia,” casting Mickey Mouse in the title role of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” In the summer of 1937, while dining at Chasen’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, the still-youthful king of movie animation invited the famed conductor Leopold Stokowski to join him, and something
extraordinary was conjured up between them.
 
Disney had already used music as a foundation of his animated film series, "Silly Symphonies," and hoped to collaborate with Stokowski on a cartoon short based on Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The idea of putting classical music to animated segments was expanded, ultimately creating the wildly risky but wonderfully ambitious “Fantasia,” an impressively long animated feature, which opened to great fanfare on November 13, 1940, at the Broadway Theatre. “Fantasia” became the first commercial picture ever to be exhibited with stereophonic sound.
 
Now, 69 years after “Fantasia,” Disney and Bruckheimer have tried to create a fresh story with an all-new live-action adventure. While in theory the message remains simple fun, timeless and profound, in actuality, the new movie has tempers so much with the original, deviating in so many major ways (all the worse) that the two works barely show resemblance of any sort.
 
As a new work, this "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is loud and noisy and bombastic, too heavily reliant on CGI effects, which makes the story shortcomings all the more apparent. Moreover, strangely, the film also suffers in the acting department, showing no chemistry between the two gifted leads, Cage and Baruchel.
 
Many of Hollywood' contemporary productions are recycling old ideas and formats by applying to them state of the art technology and effects, but "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is so disjointed structurally, so mechanically constructed, and so detached in emotional involvement that only the very young, undiscriminating viewers might join for the ride, those who embraced "Prince of Persia," a cheesy, disappointing flick made by Disney and Bruckheimer earlier in the summer.