Nicolas Cage may be yet to meet a script he didn’t love, but that’s quite alright by me. There’s not a single film in his oeuvre that isn’t worth watching at least once, if only to relish his sure-to-be inimitable performance. Say what you will about method guys like Daniel Day-Lewis, but even he would have trouble taking The Wicker Man as seriously as Cage does. The former-Coppola endeavours to create a memorable character in each film, whether it is helmed by a Herzog or a Turteltaub. Is that his fatal flaw or his most endearing quality? I say the latter. We’re going to get boring studio dross either way, and I prefer my studio dross to have an injection of pure, unfiltered Cage.
This brings us to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (not quite studio dross, but not far from it). It’s a mildly-engaging film with a charming cast; a special-effect showcase searching for a storyline; a bunch of heartfelt performances desperately seeking characters. It is the exact kind of film you would imagine to be spun-off from a dialogue-free animated sequence from Fantasia; that is to say, not a very complex or interesting one. Still, there should be enough fireworks for young boys and girls to enjoy, even if it struggles to match the magical heights of its inspiration. And for Cage-aficionados like myself, there should be enough of his eccentricities to keep you awake.
For the sake of tradition, I’ll summarise the plot, even though there isn’t really much of one. I’m also going to ignore the film’s silly prologue, in which convoluted mythology is introduced as an excuse for the film not really having any story to tell. The ever-affable Jay Baruchel stars as Dave Sutler, a gawky physics student who might be the modern day reincarnation of Merlin (or something). Balthazar Blake (Cage) has spent centuries searching for this ‘Prime Merliner’ (or something), and offers Dave the opportunity to get into the sorcery game. He’s keen, so long as it doesn’t interrupt his courtship of childhood crush Becky (the delightful and “out of his league” Teresa Palmer). Meanwhile, a similarly centuries-old sorcerer Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina, doing his most menacing English teacher impression) has teamed up with celebrity magician Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell, doing his most menacing Russell Brand impression) to destroy Merlin’s ring and bring about the end of the world (or something).
Cue expensive looking pyrotechnics as the magicians (kinda) tear up New York. The film isn’t nearly as exciting as whatever your imagination will come up with in regards to a magical free-for-all in the Big Apple. Yes, the film is lazy, and director Jon Turteltaub shows off as much personality and flair as he does in his previous films (which is to say, not much at all). As forgettable as the whole thing is, the cast make it worthwhile. Kudos to Disney for hiring Jay Baruchel (one of the most pleasant breakout stars of the year) in the lead. And of course, Cage creates another fun character in Balthazar Blake. Everyone seemed to love it when Johnny Depp claimed his Captain Jack was inspired by Keith Richards. Well, according to Cage, Balthazar is inspired by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. Yes, Nicolas Cage is a better, more interesting actor than anyone else in Hollywood. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice may not exactly be a showcase for his talents, but at least he’s using a paycheck movie such as this to hone his craft.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice arrives in Australian cinemas September 9th.