Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Disney Studios has a long history of mining older properties for live-actions moves. They have made them based on previous live-action movies, feature-length cartoons and rides. The newest installment in this is a live-action movie inspired by an animated short. Not just any animated short, though, but one of Disney's favorites - the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Given that the source is so short, that leaves a lot of padding. This was given to the team that created National Treasure.

The result is mixed. It is not as good as Pirates of the Caribbean and not as bad as the Haunted mansion.

The casting was a problem. Nicolas Cage is a talented actor but he doesn't come across as a 1,400-year-old-sorcerer. He is ok in the role but not as good as Alfred Molina as the villain.

The real problem is with the star, Jay Brauchel. Since he is in nearly every scene, he needs to carry the movie. The problem is that he is more of a sidekick. He has a whining, nasal voice that can be grating. He also looks and dresses too geeky. At one point we see him preparing for a date and pulling out a new, white shirt. Then he covers it in the same layered flannel and hoodie he has been wearing since the first reel.

The plot itself is familiar - a young man suddenly finds out that he is special. With the help of a mentor, he learns to use his gifts and beat the villain. This was old when Star Wars used it. Just this year we have seen it in Percy Jackson and in How to Train Dragons (also voiced by Jay Brauchel).

There is also the cliche that a young hero in training is told about an impossible-seeming feat that can only be performed by the chosen one. In Eregon, you knew when Bron was told that only the best dragon riders could stand on the dragon's tail that he would be doing it by the end of the movie. The same thing happens here.

Casting aside, there is nothing wrong with the movie. The plot is well-thought out without any obvious holes. Dave, the apprentice, may come by his powers too fast (he picks up more in a couple of days than Harry Potter does in years) but you do see him having to work for it.

The movie is at its best when the wizards battle. There are several battles and they are much more imaginative than anything in Harry Potter.

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