The Sorcerer’s Appentice Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

I actually did get to see Inception this week like I had hoped. It was a fantastically imaginative idea that was supercool to watch but it also had major consistency issues that got even bigger upon reflection. Unfortunately if I did an Inception review I couldn’t talk about any of that or I’d give the whole plot away. So I’ll just say it’s well worth a watch and move on to a review of Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice instead.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is about a physics major named Dave who discovers he has inherited Merlin’s powers and must help his master Balthazar stop his rival Horvath from releasing the evil Morgana from her magical prison.

I mentioned in the trailer review for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that it looked like a cynical attempt to cash in on the Harry Potter gravy train, and it is, but it’s not without its moments. Despite the fact that Nicholas Cage (whom I hate) is involved, I will give you a fair and balanced review of its successes and failures – promise.


Perhaps the movie’s biggest failing (you knew I’d start with the failings) is that it is, shall we say, less than original. Harry Potter isn’t the only source that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice “draws inspiration from” (read “rips off”). The movie starts out in a rather Spider-Man like way where Young Dave (Jake Cherry) wanders away on a class field trip and gains superpowers in the form of a dragon ring belonging to Merlin.

Merlin's dragon ring from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

it’s always Merlin – it’s annoying how they can’t make a magic movie without mentioning him

It turns out Dave is actually the Prime Merlinian (when they say this in the movie it sounds alternately like “Prime Meridian” and “Prime Millennian”) and is going to be a powerful sorcerer. His new master Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) is going to teach him lots of cool stuff, but of course Dave is a) clumsy and b) 10 years old, so he accidentally sets Balthazar’s arch-rival Horvath (Alfred Molina) free from a matryoshka doll where each layer is a prison for a different evil magician.

nesting doll prison from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

This nesting doll prison thing is one really cool aspect of the movie

Horvath wants to steal the rest of the doll and set free Merlin’s super-evil arch rival Morgana (Alica Krige) from the very bottom layer. Balthazar fights him, of course, and then the two of them get trapped in a magic jar and to give Dave a ten year time out to grow into Jay Baruchel.

Balthazar and Dave from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

I appreciate your not giving the role to a ten year old

When Balthazar and Horvath return, Dave is a 20 year old physics major at NYU, which turns out to be prophetic because magic, in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, anyway, is just manipulating molecules – physics. This is a really cool idea but I was disappointed that they didn’t follow through on it.

Dave gets zapped from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Dave’s got Tesla coils in his lab to get zapped by for comic relief but that’s about it

In Diane Duane’s So You Want to be a Wizard book series, magic is based on chemistry and the wizards had to balance chemical equations to use magic (sounds lame, but it worked). In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, except for the fact that Dave’s electricity project comes into play later, it’s physics in name only.

Balthazar with a plasma bolt from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

instead, the tricks are ripped off of Dragonball Z

So Horvath and Balthazar are both after Dave to get the doll. The layered aspect of the doll really works well for the plot, because every so often one of the layers can open up and release a boss character (kind of like a video game, actually) for them to fight until the big battle with Morgaga at the end. It’s a cool device, even if some of the bad guys seem a little too easy to defeat.

the evil Sun-Wok from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

makes you wonder why they were sealed in the doll and not just defeated in the first place

Naturally the plot must be further complicated by relationships – specifically relationships with girls. Dave’s desire to win Becky (Teresa Palmer), a girl from his past who conveniently loves stuttering nerds, keeps him from working on his magic.

Becky and Dave from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

have I told you how much I love the fact that you can’t form a full sentence?

His efforts to impress her lead to an eye-rolling “homage” (read: ripoff) of that part in Fantasia where Mickey magicks the brooms and they get out of control.

Fantasia homage from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

There’s also a star-crossed past-lovers thing for Balthazar involving his old comrade Veronica (Monica Bellucci), told mostly in flashbacks, that actually wouldn’t be such a bad subplot/complication…

Balthazar and Veronica from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

oh woe etc.

… if the only girls in this movie weren’t all either someone’s girlfriend or an easily defeated evil villain. As an action-loving female, that REALLY annoyed me. I guess we can blame this on the fact that all six of the credited screenwriters and the director (Jon Turteltaub) are men – chauvinistic ones of the “great MEN are always called” (because they’re MEN) club. Even Horvath’s sidekick is a man – one called Drake (Toby Kebbel).

Horvath and Drake from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

he’s best described as the child of David Copperfield and Criss Angel as played by Dax Shepard

Despite his annoying maleness Drake is hilarious, and it’s really too bad we don’t get to see more of him. Other than his innate ridiculousness the only jokes in the movie are either really obvious or require clunky dialogue setups.

the iron eagle from the Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer's Apprentice

DAVE: I should probably mention that I have no idea how to land this thing.

So what it all boils down to is that despite its flaws, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is pretty decent. Unfortunately for Disney, “decent” isn’t going to cut it against Inception (mind-blowing), Despicable Me (hilarious), Toy Story 3 (heartwarming), and Eclipse (has legions of screaming fans).

It’s probably best enjoyed at the side of an excitable young person of the 8-13 age group, so if you’re looking to take your kid to a movie and you’ve already seen Toy Story 3, and Despicable Me, the $20 you’ll pay to see the The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will be well worth the fun night out you’ll get for your money.

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