The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of "Fantasia" may be the most historic scene in the history of Disney animation. I'm sure we all remember watching the sequence starring Mickey Mouse as a child and thinking, "You know what this is missing? Nicolas Cage!" In Disney's reimagining of The Sorcerer's Apprentice Cage plays Balthazar Blake, a sorcerer who fought alongside Merlin. You'd think that Merlin's star pupil would be of British descent. Yet Balthazar speaks with a clear-cut American accent, centuries before the U.S.A was even colonized. It's probably for the best that Cage doesn't attempt to pull off an English accent, though. I can only imagine how laughable it would sound.
Merlin is betrayed and murdered by his ally Maxim Horvath, played by Alfred Molina, who decides to join forces with the wicked Morgana. Balthazar manages to trap the two evil sorcerers in a mystical Matryoshka doll. Several centuries go by as Balthazar searches for a worthy apprentice to destroy Morgana for good. In the year 2000 a young boy named Dave stumbles upon Balthazar's shop and accidentally releases Maxim from his prison. Balthazar and Maxim duke it out and, in the process, both are ensnared in a magic vase.
Another 10 years pass. Dave, played by Jay Baruchel, is now a nerdy college student attempting to win the affections of a girl named Becky, played by Teresa Palmer. Meanwhile Balthazar and Maxim break free from the vase. Balthazar takes on Dave as his apprentice to help track down Maxim who wants to let loose Morgana and destroy the world.
Jay Baruchel from Tropic Thunder and How to Train Your Dragon makes for a likeable hero and is absolutely convincing as an ordinary dork swooped into a world of sorcery. Alfred Molina is entertaining no matter what part he takes on. Nicolas Cage has plenty of fun playing himself. The one character that we don't get enough of is Toby Kebbell as Drake Stone, a magician with real powers who somewhat resembles Chris Angel.
I enjoyed bits and pieces of The Sorcerer's Apprentice. However, I felt it tried far too hard to put a 21st century twist on what was originally a simple poem written in 1797. The story is all over the place, and the film is more reliant on visual effects rather than real magic. The Sorcerer's Apprentice certainly isn't a special effects travesty that will warp your child's imagination like The Last Airbender. But it doesn't have the intricacy of the Harry Potter films, humor of Enchanted or depth of Where the Wild Things Are.
If I was between the ages of 4 and 10 I might have appreciated The Sorcerer's Apprentice for its relentless energy and colorful action sequences. When I was a kid I also thought that Hocus Pocus was a cinematic achievement. As a cultured and snooty adult, though, The Sorcerer's Apprentice just didn't do much for me. It lacks the sophistication that made movies like Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me entertaining for all ages. If you have young children they'll probably dig The Sorcerer's Apprentice as much as they did G-Force. For older audiences, the film is a bit of a bore.