The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Fantasy Wish Fulfillment for Nerds Everywhere

Are you skinny? Nerdy? Nasal voice? Trouble with women? Obsession with science? Then The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is tailor-made for you– a movie by nerds, for nerds, where nerds save the day. It’s a charming effects-driven vehicle, where you never feel anything is truly at stake but you smile all the same. Jon Turteltaub, director of the National Treasure films, treats this as Medieval Treasure, giving us some mythological/historical basis for our modern-day chase for the valuable artifact of importance. Like in National Treasure, none of it is taken too seriously, and Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel both have terrific energy and timing for their banter. Did a film like this have potential to be more than a disposable summer action film? Sure, but even though it’s not the most thrilling thrill ride you’ve ever seen, it’s still got enough fun to cast its spell on you.

We open hearing the tale of Merlin and his three apprentices: Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), Veronica (Monica Bellucci), and Horvath (Alfred Molina). If you’re not immediately smiling as a result of the film beginning with an ancient scroll with a picture of long-haired Nicolas Cage staring out at you, then maybe this movie isn’t for you. Horvath betrays Merlin and helps his arch-nemesis, Morgana (Alice Krige), kill him, but Balthazar is left standing when Veronica sacrifices herself to capture Morgana inside a doll with her. Horvath gets captured eventually as well, but no one can truly destroy Morgana until the Prime Merlinian, a.k.a. the heir to Merlin’s powers, is found. Balthazar searches for centuries and can’t find him… until he meets Dave (Jay Baruchel), a nerdy physics major who has never done anything “cool” in his life. Now, it’s up to him to re-capture the escaped Horvath, defeat Morgana, and save the world. Not bad for a nerd.

Nicolas Cage’s operatic acting style is perfect for the larger-than-life, centuries-old wizard. He has this uncanny ability to balance full commitment with a sense of being in on the joke. This serves him well as Balthazar has a taste for practical jokes that he shows alongside his urgent preparation of Dave for his destiny. He wears a leather jacket, a wide-brimmed hat, and pointy shoes more believably than any current movie star. Besides, since people think Cage is a bit of a lunatic anyway, it serves him well as the man who seems mentally removed from everyone else in modern times. Jay Baruchel serves as an atypical anti-hero, and while he’s turned his normal voice and mannerisms up in energy to an almost shrill degree, he still wins you over. I can see people hating him, but he has a winning personality and when he stands up to Morgana at the end, his commitment to the role makes him ALMOST believable as a powerful sorcerer.

But the point of the film isn’t to make him a truly believable sorcerer. If he was transformed into someone tough or masterful, then the wimps in the audience will stop believing that they can leave the theater, gain confidence, and score a girl as hot as Teresa Palmer. The whole appeal of the film is that a skinny loser doesn’t need a new face or new physique to save the world, get the girl, and be powerful– he just needs a bit of confidence. Alfred Molina, one of the best villains you can have in a film, has to bow at the end to the mighty power of the squeaky-voiced dweeb. While it’s a feel-good moral, the downside is we know it’s not real and the loser is bound to win, so even if he’s captured or his girlfriend is captured or Nic Cage is knocked out, we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that nerds will prevail. There are some fine effects and a few cool ideas (the mirror traps are a cool touch, and I liked Balthazar flooding Chinatown with so much confetti that no one could see the real dragon on the loose), but the film never blows you away or puts you on the edge of your seat. It’s comfort food– you sit back, enjoy the hammy performances, laugh at the quips, and cheer for the nerds that you know will win. It never contains magic… but it has charm.

~ by russellhainline on July 20, 2010.

One Response to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Fantasy Wish Fulfillment for Nerds Everywhere”

  1. Great Blog!

    Nicolas Cage Is great!

    You saw the trailer for his latest film?


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