Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

     I gave Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010) a chance based on the recommendation of a friend and fellow gamer.  I was forewarned to disregard anything I knew of the legends of Merlin and Morgan le Fay (which is insanely easy to do since I never have done any research into any figure of the Arthurian legends).  I figured Nicolas Cage would give his regular job of half-winking at the audience, knowing that he is getting paid to be in a movie that isn't particularly good but having fun with the character (and at least trying to make it fun for the audience) at the same time.
     What I got was a movie heavy on the exposition, complete with four minutes of opening voice-over, telling the audience about what they were watching instead of simply just letting it happen before our eyes.  I'm not particularly surprised; Director John Turtletaub is often guilty of interjecting long and intermittent bits of back-story and explanations that aren't necessarily needed.  While I thought his use of voice-overs made sense in While You Were Sleeping (1995), a decent look into the mostly introverted character played by Sandra Bullock, they feel downright unfriendly here.  Unlike in National Treasure (2004), another Cage/Turtletaub collaboration, the cagey mentor isn't filled with contagious joy about the object of (or the objects in) his adventure.  Cage's Balthazar Blake is all over the place emotionally, and while I wanted to like him, I just couldn't get there.
     Jay Baruchel play's David Stutler as though he were James Franco's younger, untrained brother (and I mean the Franco would shows up in interviews, speaking with flat affect and not able to maintain eye contact).  Baruchel's voice is inconsistent -- it would seem that his ADR sessions produced the same voice from How to Train Your Dragon (2009) and not his otherwise in character timbre.  Emotionally scarred David (from having nine or ten year-old children -- the movie can't decide -- laugh at him for supposedly wetting his pants) lives off-campus at NYU, subs for his professor, and is ready to graduate at 20.  The character is referenced as avoiding a social life, but is played as though he is comfortable with his nerd chic, casually being self-deprecating when he notices people uncomfortable with his intelligence or his science based skills.
     The rest of the cast appeared to have been abandoned by Turtletaub, who was working at an effects level he had never even dared before.  Alfred Molina plays it safe, making his Maxim Horvath one of quiet menace and little personality.  Alice Krige may as well be reprising her role as the Borg queen; she plays the evil woman who threatens our valiant heroes.  Check.  Toby Kebbell tries to add some nuance to his Cris Angel wannabe character, but the story has little need for the character except for Horvath to have someone to speak at.  Teresa Palmer plays Becky more like a frosh-soph scoping with the adjustments to college life than a girl (woman) making it on her own at NYU, having her own radio show, and a stable social life.  She apparently gets to look sexier and have super powers in I am Number Four (2011), so maybe she can do more with a character involved in the action in movies of this stripe.
     I do want to note that this movie evolved from an idea of turning The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment from Fantasia (1940).  It feels miles away from that, and not necessarily for the better or worse. One scene in the movie apes that much-loved segment, and it feels alien and disrespectful to the dark, brooding (if ephemeral) tone the film has built to that point.  It was as though somebody remembered it had to be put it the finished product but didn't care how it related to it.
     I will say that The Sorcerer's Apprentice is much more family friendly than Drive Angry (2011), but it isn't really suitable for children under the age of ten.  Cage, likewise, plays a more approachable character in the former than in the latter.  But I would still rather watch the mess that is Drive Angry because it seems to be more authentic.  That is not much of an endorsement of either, I'm afraid.  I keep giving Cage a chance, and while I can usually enjoy him on screen, I'm finding his projects have become somewhat outside my tastes.

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