Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

(PG) **

Director: Jon Turteltaub.

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell.

INSPIRED by a segment from the ground-breaking Disney cartoon Fantasia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is one of those films that feels very close to being good.

It's not good though, but it's still slightly fun, thanks to a pleasant cast and some great effects sequences. Also it's ideas and mythology are neat. However, it's not great by any stretch of the imagination.

Cage plays Balthazar, a 1300-year-old wizard who has spent most of the last millenia searching for the Prime Merlinian - the super-powerful sorceror who is the only one who can defeat Morgana, a magically imprisoned sorceress with the ability to take over the world.

Balthazar eventually finds 10-year-old Dave in New York in 2000, but before the kid can become his apprentice, Balthazar is forced to battle his old nemesis Horvath (Molina) and the two magicians are accidentally locked away for 10 years.

Which brings us to the present, where Balthazar and Horvath are on the loose once again, with one trying to save the world and the other trying to rule it.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice opens at a lightning pace, but it's medieval prologue not only proves annoying but also unnecessary as we get told all the information in it a couple of times later on.

The finale also suffers from some similarly silly scripting. An ancient spell that requires satellite dishes? A bad guy who just runs away despite being so close to achieving his goal?

In the middle is a mostly entertaining film thanks in no small part to Baruchel's charisma as Dave. While Cage tries to steal scenes, his Balthazar is an unwieldly character, an unseemly blend of wise-cracking hero and grumpy old wizard that Cage can't quite balance.

The CGI is excellent although the film could have done without the reference to Fantasia in the end thanks to some strong new ideas.

But it's a mess. Sloppy editing gets in the way of two of the film's strongest points - its sense of humour and its action - and as a result the film-makers' hopes of a Harry Potter-following franchise disappear like a rabbit into a hat.

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