Slight spoiler alert, though if you’ve ever seen a single movie with magic in it, there can’t be too many things left to spoil.
I usually (if twice makes a habit) do a book review on Thursday, but the heat index yesterday was 115°F, and I was trapped all morning in a room without air conditioning discussing newspaper subject headings, and this one woman from another library would not stop picking at the differences among Crime-dash-dash-Willful Injury and Crime-dash-dash-Assault and Battery, and Crime-dash-dash-Armed Assault and so on until half of us wanted to demonstrate all the differences to her personally. The other half were too busy having heat strokes to care.
So I took the rest of the day off and hied me to the nearest movie theater. Lucky me, it was the first day of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
To start with a slight digression, the previews were awesome—expect a review of Disney’s Tangled when it comes out.*
Now that that’s out of the way:
The best thing about this movie for me is David, the titular Apprentice. He’s a geek. A self-esteem-issued, tremulous, over-intelligent,hyper-sensitive, proto-geek. His first experience with magic as an impressionable kid left him mentally and emotionally scarred for the next ten years: “Did you know that in some neighborhoods a nervous breakdown is still called ‘having a David Stutler’?!”**
And he never loses the geeky. Ever. He becomes a hero—if that’s a spoiler for you, stop reading this and watch a movie, any movie—and says a few hero lines, but he’s never magically transformed into perfect-handsome-cool guy with all the answers.
Oddly enough, he alsocomes to mimic Nicholas Cage to an interesting degree. His delivery and his inflections—even his posture at a few points—reflect the way Cage either does or would do things. In effect, he becomes a young Balthazar on a subconscious level, without trying—that is, David’s not trying. I expect Jay Baruchel put some serious thought into it.
I’ll also mention here that the Evil Sorceror (whose presence is required by magical law in these movies*** ) also has an apprentice^ who grew up without his mentor—but Drake’s adaption to being abandoned is waaaay on the other side of the geek continuum. But he’s still a geek, bless him.
My favorite scene with Drake is when he offers David the first shot in a duel like a badass—and then guides him through the steps: “Get your ring, right, good. Have you cleared your mind? Yeah? Well, maybe try . . . “ It’s like he’s trying to help Dave get his car started. Excellent.
So, the characters were good—you can argue with me, but none of them were complete cardboard. Which is hard to do with a plot like this. The dialogue was snappy and intelligent, for the most part. There was one line that clunked for me, delivered just a tad too enthusiastically by Omar Benson Miller, but I’m gonna give him a pass because it wasn’t the greatest line. And he’s Omar Benson Miller.
Okay, so the story is pure formula, sure, but in my opinion, it’s a good example of the formula. Come on folks, it’s a Disney movie—they’ve been remaking classic tales since Snow White. And, for the most part, remaking them well. You maybe wanted David to lose? Join the Dark Side? Have his girl turn out to be the Evil Mastermind?
Chill. This ain’t M. Night Shyamalan. This is Jerry Bruckheimer and Jon Turteltaub doing what they do pretty darn well.
And the effects are cool. Seriously cool. The Fantasia homage was pretty good—although to be honest, as a recovering bassoonist, the music is what made the scene for me. However, the drawings and artwork that appear at regular intervals, though gorgeous, belong on a set of McDonald’s glasses. Which is probably also the Disney touch.
But all in all, I enjoyed this movie. Geek steps up and defeats evil as a geek. In old man shoes. With Nicholas Cage. In an air conditioned room with a gallon-sized, ice-cold diet Pepsi.
What’s not to like?
*Here’s the trailer. I shared it with my daughter, who is now bellowing “Best. Day. Ever!” at random intervals. These clip prove that animated laughing horses are inherently hilarious. I dare you not to laugh with him.
**Disclaimer: I saw this movie once. So if you feel the need to correct me on any quotes, be gentle, please.
***But whose presence here is jacked up several hundred notches by Alfred Molina’s presence. Yay, presents!
^Performed in the most earnestly campy way by the incomparable Toby Kebbell, for whom I would proudly bear the label of cougar . . . ahem, I mean, he’s a very talented young man . . . (fans self)