If you’re a parent, you could easily find yourself watching "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice". The kiddos have reached the mid-Summer ennui, stuck between enthusiasm for being out of school and the nervous anticipation for the next year. More than that, it’s hot, and the air conditioner is on the fritz. You’ve taken them to the pool, the water park, the mall, the sprinklers in the backyard. They’re bored, you’re tired, and- hey look, a Disney movie! That’ll keep them entertained for two hours or so!

The kids might be happy for that two hours. Heck, they may even enjoy this loosest of adaptations of "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice" from "Fantasia". But if, out of hope or simple desperation you decide to shell out $10 for each of your kids as well as yourself, keep this in mind: I didn’t think "Apprentice" was absolutely heinous. But about five minutes after I left the theater I promptly forgot about it. The only reason I remembered was I saw the listing in my planner saying this review was due.

Directed by: John Turtletaub
Written by: Laurence Conner, Mark Rosenthal, Matt Lopez, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina
Rated: PG

One of the main problems is there’s just too much dry plot. "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice" stars Nicolas Cage as an ageless wizard from the time of Merlin and Jay Baruchel, the physics major from NYU who becomes his protege. There are evil wizards, which Cage’s character has been battling for the past thousand years or so, including Morgana La Fay from Arthurian legend and her biggest follower (played by Alfred Molina, who seems to be having just a whee of a time). There’s all sorts of discussions of the Prime Merlinian, and Cage’s love interest (Monica Bellucci) who’s locked in Morgana’s body, who’s been locked in a doll, and if she gets out of the doll she’s going to raise an army of dead wizards…and round and round she goes.

There are a few charms in the movie, including images of Cage riding metal eagles from the Chrysler building and Bellucci swaying and cavorting atop a fountain in Battery Park, electricity flowing from her maestro fingers.There’s a terrific riff on "illusionists" like Criss Angel (an Angel lookalike is played by Toby Kebbell). The writers (yes, all five of them) introduce some intriguing ideas about the intersection between magic and science, and reference the patron saint of mad scientists Nicola Tesla, but these themes were explored more beautifully and completely in "The Prestige" a few years back.

Baruchel plays David, the titular apprentice, like a nerdier Woody Allen, but in this he’s got none of Allen’s dubious charm. Listening to Baruchel affect a slightly autistic stutter is irritating at best and kind of offensive at worst. But it’s preferable to watching Cage trudge like a reanimated corpse through this movie, delivering his lines like a petulant child who’s been asked to behave at a dinner party. Only Molina seems up to the task of bringing life and vigor into his role as the evil Horvath (and how great a name is Horvath for a villain?) He seems to relish the bowler hat and cane he carries, drawling his lines in that divine voice of his.

Looking now at the cast list, this film should be far more memorable than it is. I of course blame director Jon Turteltaub, the man who is second only to Brett Ratner in hackery. The thing about Turteltaub is that his movies are never spectacularly horrible; they don’t explode but rather implode with a whimper, bogged down with the weight of their own inconsequence. The children at the screening I was at laughed at some of the jokes,and definitely seemed to like the steel eagle scenes. But when the lights go up and you face the long ride home to your busted air conditioner, will it stay with them? Will they want to play games where they too can harness the power emitting from a Tesla coil? I don’t think so.

Besides, wouldn’t you like to just take them back to the pool instead?

About The Author

Emma Johnson is a Blast Magazine critic whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe

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