I kept waiting for Mickey to show up ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I kept waiting for Mickey to show up

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
My rating:

So the provenance of this movie is, apparently, the segment in the 1940 Disney animated film Fantasia in which Mickey Mouse played the titular sorcerer's apprentice. It was the one where he enchants a broom to do his chores for him, but instead causes a flood in his master's laboratory. Remember that one? Now, apparently Jerry Bruckheimer - or one of his flunkies - thought it would be a good idea to make a movie out of this. Of course, a theme park ride is also a dumb thing to make a movie out of, but those actually turned out pretty good. Which proves that, as with all things, execution is key. Yes, precisely nobody was waiting for this film with bated breath, but if it had turned out good it would've shut all the naysayers up.

I'm still saying nay.

In 740 AD, the wizard Merlin is betrayed by his apprentice Horvath (Alfred Molina) and killed by his arch-enemy Morgana (Alice Krige). His two other apprentices Balthazar (Nicolas Cage) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) manage to trap Morgana within a magical doll called the Grimhold, but Veronica ends up imprisoned along with her. Balthazar spends the next 1,000 years fighting other evil sorcerers and searching for the Prime Merlinian, prophesied to be the only one to defeat Morgana once and for all - and in present-day New York, he finds him in Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a young physics nerd. Dave is more interested in pursuing his childhood crush Becky (Teresa Palmer), but when Horvath reemerges with a plan to free Morgana and end the world - aided by Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell), another modern-day sorcerer - Dave must learn to control his own nascent magical powers and fulfill his destiny.

Bruckheimer made his name by making hyper-macho action movies (in fact, he's one of the few Hollywood producers, as opposed to directors or screenwriters, who puts his unique stamp on all his films), but he seems to be on a kid- and teen-friendly roll lately. It started with the Pirates of the Caribbean series, of course, then continued with G-Force and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time... and also, um, Kangaroo Jack. Smart move on Bruckheimer's part, since his something-must-blow-up-every-10-minutes formula ought to work like gangbusters on 12-year-old boys of all ages - but it would've been smarter if more of those movies were actually good.

I'm going to unfairly compare The Sorcerer's Apprentice to Prince of Persia now. Unfair? Perhaps, but really, this movie kept reminding me of it. It doesn't suffer from the breakneck editing that spoiled Prince, but that just means Prince had a better movie buried deep within it, whereas this one doesn't. Prince at least tried to tell an interesting story; this one is your typical Campbellian Hero's Journey that doesn't so much rip off Joseph Campbell as it does Harry Potter. And its problem isn't so much that it employs a classic story as it is the fact that it's so generic and uninspired. One of the archetypical beats of the Hero's Journey is the Refusal of the Call, which happens here when Dave quits halfway through his training under Balthazar - which makes no sense, because by then he had already discovered that he has magical powers.

But making sense isn't high on this movie's list of priorities. Nor is telling a smart story, one that holds up to the scrutiny of anyone above the (mental) age of 12. Once again, Prince was cheesy and lightweight, but it wasn't as deliberately kiddish as this. Nowhere is this more evident than during its one nod to its source material; yes, there's a scene in which Dave brings some mops and broomsticks to life, things go haywire, they cause a flood, Dave panics, har de har har not. That's the general tone of this movie - a live-action cartoon, and not a very good one at that. The only really funny bits were a smash cut to a Buzz Lightyear toy near the beginning, and a Star Wars reference later on, and it's telling that this movie's best jokes are references to other movies.

If there's any reason to catch this, it would've been for a typically gonzo Nicolas Cage performance - and sadly, it disappoints in this regard too. Both he and Alfred Molina, another veteran scenery-chewer, are far too restrained to be much fun. Monica Bellucci and Alice Krige (the Borg Queen, man!) are equally wasted in what are little more than cameos. Teresa Palmer was actually quite impressive in a thankless role; she was the only one playing it straight while everyone else was doing broad. (And she's also verrry cute.) Toby Kebbell was fun - a lot more than he was in Prince of Persia - so why he gets so little screentime I'll never know. And Jay Baruchel? I like the guy. I missed him in She's Out of My League, but he was good in Tropic Thunder, and his voice work was great in How to Train Your Dragon. But he's lousy here; he overdoes the awkward geeky tics, and his perpetual freaking out at the freaky magic stuff comes off as annoying. The problem is that his dialogue is crappy, and also that he's directed by Jon Turteltaub.

Jon Turteltaub, man. What a hack. He's known mostly for the inexplicably successful National Treasure movies, and he brings the same complete and utter unremarkability of those to this film. Its saving grace is that things move fast enough that you won't get bored, and the SFX are well-crafted enough to be mildly thrilling on occasion. But ultimately, naah; even Prince was a tad better than this, because it wasn't as lazy and formulaic and made for the kids. There was this bunch of teenage boys sitting next to me in the cinema who seemed to dig it; they laughed at all the jokes, they ooh-ed at all the magical razzle-dazzle, and they walked out chatting happily. But they also sat through the Tron: Legacy trailer with absolutely zero reaction. So whose judgment are you gonna trust, mine or theirs?

Expectations: this looks like it'll be something new


k0k s3n w4i said...

Wha... no reaction to the Tron Legacy trailer?

Wait, I wasn't particularly excited about the Tron Legacy trailer either, and I did watch the original Tron when I was a kid and disliked it (I rewatched it recently and disliked it more). But I do like Jeff Bridges. And the graphical update looked amaaaaaazing.

I enjoyed The Sorcerer Apprentice, with my fellow bad movie lover :P We actually catch movies we are certain to be bad just to see how hilariously bad they can get (and Legion got my top vote for best bad movie this year so far; we'll see how last airbender goes). did you see it (legion that is)? i'd like to hunt your archive for it but your idiosyncratic post naming convention makes it a real chore, so if you're replying this, do drop a link here to get to it (if you did review Legion).

I was disappointed that Molina wasn't as unrestrained as he was in Prince (which was bad in the not-so-enjoyable way) but i laughed out loud every time "prime merlinean" and "grimhold" came up in the dialogue. and while i did laugh hard at the star wars ref, it was so freaking obvious it was coming. and the tesla coil strapped to the front of the car, and KO'ing Molina the moment it appeared? hilarious shit.

as for cage, the "BECAUSE I CAN READ MINDS" bit was made of win.

TMBF said...

@k0k s3n w4i: I did review Legion, and I actually kinda liked it. :)