The development process is such that something that may have started out as a fairy good idea can mutate to serve too many masters. This much is certain, 2010’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice seems to have begun as an idea to turn the beloved short in Walt Disney’s Fantasia into a feature length film. But that short can’t really lead to a narrative, only one set piece. So instead the creators had to borrow from the popular myths of the time, specifically Harry Potter. And so Jay Baruschel is Dave, the hapless college student who experienced magic as a child (but no one believed him), but is actually a secretly awesome magician. He is taken in by Balthazar Blake (Nicholas Cage) to be Blake’s apprentice and to learn the ways of magic to protect himself from Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). My review of Jon Turteltaub’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
After the film’s clunky prologue, it moves into current day where Dave (Baruschel) is a nerdy outsider with the clever fat black roommate (Omar Benson Miller), and a crush on the same girl he was crushing on when he was ten… that being Becky Barnes (Teresa Palmer). Ten years ago Blathazar and Maxim were locked in a vase and now they’re free, and they’re on a doohickey quest. Maxim gets a Chris Angel-esque famous magician as his sidekick (Toby Kebbell), and then there’s more back-story to explain why what they’re doing is important and could save the world. The ring that Dave can wear is only for Merlin’s replacement (also, if he believes in himself and the Schwartz, he can practice magic sans ring), Blake is in love with someone who’s also trapped in a vase along with the evilest magician, Morgana la Fey (Alice Krige). Basically, this is a training movie, with some action set pieces in the middle, and a young romance movie with Palmer and Baruschel eventually falling for each other, and then there’s a big boss fight at the end.
There is not a single performer I don’t like in this film, but what kills the movie dead in its tracks is the abundance of terrible and unnecessary backstory. Too often films are interested in building a mythology that gets in the way of the story, so you’ve got a lot of explaining why so and so is evil, and how their powers work, and none of it feels organic. If the template is Star Wars or Raiders, the way those films handled getting the story across should be the blueprint. Instead here you’ve got boring information given to that doesn’t really add to the movie, so much as stop it.
By the time you get through all the boring, the film feels so routine that it’s hard to care. All the performers add moments that make this somewhat better than – say – The Last Airbender, but that’s a fairly low starting point. All the elements are here, but the movie got away from them. And there’s something sad about a film about magic that has none.
Disney’s Blu-ray comes in widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD surround. The film also comes with a DVD copy. Extras kick off with “Magic in the City” (13 min.), which gives a general overview of the making of, and then “The Science of Sorcery” (10 min.) talks to how the effects were done, which is supplemented by “Making Magic Real” (12 min.) and continues the behind-the-effects look at the film. “Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic” (10 min.) covers the mopping scene in the film, while “The Fashionable Drake Stone” (2 min.) covers Toby Kebbell’s costumes. “The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art” (4 min.) and “The Encantus” (2 min.) focus on the film’s props while “Wolves and Puppies” (3 min.) highlights the film’s animal co-stars, and “The World’s Coolest Car” (2 min.) speaks to the film’s big ride. There’s also five deleted scenes (8 min.), and outtakes (3 min.). Bonus trailers are also included. The supplements are perfunctory, much like the film itself.