I’m a Nick Cage apologist. There, I said it. For the longest time I bemoaned his face-sawing, bear-suiting, bird-haired existence in films like Bangkok Dangerous and Ghost Rider, but those days are over. I finally get what he’s going for, and what he’s going for is absolute hilarity. This is especially apparent in his newer flicks, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans, Kick Ass, and now The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a stupid romp that allows this Master of the Craft to shoot energy balls, mount vast CGI gargoyles, and—yes—a punch a woman in the face. Again. Disney’s live-action adaptation of the Fantasia short is nothing but spectacle from start to finish, complete with a Chinatown celebratory battle that would make even Big Trouble in Little China blush.
The film opens with a lengthy flashback during which a narrator explains exactly what Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) are doing on screen. Apparently the couple have long been at war with Morgana Le Fey of Arthurian fame, and likewise sided with Merlin (an ill-fated old man in a crusty fake beard). Shortly after Merlin’s death, Balthazar captured Morgana inside a tiny Russian nesting doll (called “The Grimhold”), but was subsequently forced to imprison his love, Veronica, as well. As time passed he captured other evil sorcerers known as “Morganians” inside the outer layers of the nesting doll, hoping to one day find “The Prime Merlinian”—a mythic individual said to hold unmatched magical power. Enter Dave (Jay Baruchel), a senior physics major who accidentally stumbled into Balthazar’s shop as a child, earned Merlin’s ring, broke some junk, then accidentally sealed the sorcerer and his archnemesis, Horvath (Alfred Molina) inside a Chinese urn for ten years. Once both inexplicably free themselves from the urn, it’s a rush to the Grimhold to ensure Morgana’s resurrection or destruction. As might be presumed, Balthazar adopts Dave as his apprentice, trains him, and epic battles ensue, but that’s overlooking what makes this film awesome. In its two hour runtime we’re treated to wizarding car chases through mirrored worlds, dragon battles, Tesla-coil rock songs, and Nick Cage bashing an elderly woman against a wall. There’s so much crazy shit that I’m positive I forgot something. This film oozes goofy, idiotic entertainment from every pore, and what else can you expect from the source material? It also features Jay Baruchel, who, after his performances in She’s Out of My League, How To Train Your Dragon, and The Trotsky, can do no wrong in my book; he’s got the chops to play a hilarious nerdy guy, and that’s exactly who Dave is.
If you go into The Sorcerer’s Apprentice expecting an epic of high fantasy proportions, you’re going to be disappointed. This is the kind of silly, stupid movie that Hollywood was churning out left and right during the 80’s, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing; much like Nick Cage, if you accept that it’s just a dumb ride and go with it, there’s no reason you couldn’t enjoy this film—there’s something for everyone, including an homage to the Fantasia short upon which it’s based. Plus, it’s a Nicholas Cage film, people. Come Oscar season, you’re gonna kick yourself for having not seen this.