Ladies, I have a question to ask you: if a skinny awkward physics student informs you that he is stalking you in a non-threatening manner, would you be alarmed? And if you looked like Teresa Palmer, would you even come close to considering him as a potential future boyfriend? I ask because this is exactly what occurs in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jon Turteltaub’s new action adventure film and hopeful franchise starter, in which Dave Stutler, who looks and talks like the irritating Jay Baruchel, follows and then informs Becky, the out-of-his-league arts student that he’s been in love with since grade school, that he has been stalking her in a non-threatening manner in an effort to woo her, further reinforcing the Hollywood-perpetuated myth that average looking, unpopular, neurotic boys can get with beautiful intelligent girls if they are just persistent (i.e. creepy) enough. Somehow, when the über-aggravating Jay Baruchel plays the boy, this storyline is harder to believe than the fact that Dave Stutler is actually a descendant of Merlin, and his job, as the “prime Merlinean”, is to defeat Merlin’s foe, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), with the help of Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), Merlin’s disciple, who incidentally resembles a hobo more than he does an ancient magician.
Yes, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a bad movie, and not just because it employs the outdated romantic clichés of Hollywood films past, but also because of the way it takes many talented actors (Cage, Molina, Monica Bellucci, and the charming Teresa Palmer) and forces them to recite banal dialogue with no modicum of originality in service of a story that makes precious little sense. In this way, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice resembles the previous Bruckheimer/Turteltaub/Cage action adventure franchise, National Treasure, except the focus is switched to Cage’s annoying sidekick, who becomes even more annoying when played by Baruchel. Yes, I really dislike Jay Baruchel, along with his constantly fluctuating and pitchy voice. And yes, I had to look up the word “irritate” in a thesaurus before writing this review, just so I wouldn’t become redundant in describing his personality.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is very loosely based on the famous segment of Disney’s Fantasia in which Mickey Mouse learns the art of magic and uses it to clean his master’s chamber. You know the one I’m talking about, the one with all the levitating brooms. In that film, the situation is allowed to breathe, Mickey, dismayed that he has to clean, finds out that he can use his magic to make his job easier, is elated, and goes about cleaning. We are given time to understand his elation and watch in wonder as he keeps adding to the situation, broom after broom, bucket after bucket. When things get out of hand, it is as much of a surprise to us as it is to him. In the course of about ten minutes we are given a brilliant story of a talented novice, overextending his abilities. There is an extended homage to that famous short in this film, but it is far too rushed to be enjoyable. The idea of cleaning the place is never given room to breathe and Dave’s enjoyment of the process is never emphasized, and then it’s all over before anyone has a chance to care. That is also a fitting description of the film as a whole. Concepts and plot points are introduced, but they are not given time to breath or time for the characters to come to terms with them before the film moves on to the next mediocre action scene. Thus, in the end, there’s nothing to care about.