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The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Blu-ray Review


4 stars

The Sorcerer's Apprentice Movie Review

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As Disney-branded cinematic entertainment goes, John Turtletaub’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a fun and lively jaunt through the gleaming halls of magic with a slight been-there and done-that glow to its finished polish.  It’s a harmlessly charming, yet largely indifferent script that coolly speaks to kids without talking down to them and is sure to please families looking for flashy special effects and annoy most critics with its wildly unoriginal traipsing about.

Playing yet another questionable “adult” role model (see Bad Lieutenant and Kick-Ass), Nicholas Cage is Balthazar Blake, a slightly cracked sorcerer deluxe whose 1000 plus year rule of magic can turn wolves into the puppies and dragons into decorations, as long as he is wearing the right type of pointed shoes.  Assigned to protect an enchanted nesting doll that contains both his medieval lover, Veronica (Monica Bellucci), and the sinister imaginings of Morgina (Alice Krige), Balthazar must battle his arch-nemesis Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) in modern day New York, as well as recruit the next Merlin-like whiz kid in the reluctant form of Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel) so that Good might have a chance against the forces of Evil.  Stutler’s hidden potential, in spite of his oddball clumsiness, in the arena of magic gives Balthazar hope that he might be the one prophesized by a dying Merlin (James Stephens) many, many decades ago.  Stutler, as he advances…slowly…in his magic studies, discovers that this ring-driven trick of magic might be the right spark he needs to make a connection with his long-time crush, Becky (Teresa Palmer) much to his mentor’s chagrin as the darkening hour of Morgina’s return nears.

With a lavish atmosphere that never feels forced, the neo-noirish New York set designs have a sinister weight about them that adds to the quality of the film and the tongue-in-cheek performances from Cage and Molina as they race against each other with magical spells that trap each other in visible mirrors and sharper-than-you intelligence.  Sleek and well-oiled for this glossy adventure of fantasy, Turtletaub weaves some spells of his own as this film is better and a lot more fun than the entire National Treasure series put together.  In all honesty, I guess that isn’t saying much considering the general scripted laziness that surrounds that series.  Sure, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice could have been so much more with a better constructed script that relies less on mediocrity, but the movie still operates on a certain – if not overly simple - level of constant fun.

As an extension to the Mickey Mouse vignette in Fantasia from 1940 (which was adapted from an eighteenth century Goethe poem), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice certainly doesn’t feel that forced and hammered of a narrative.  The film doesn’t exactly crackle with crisp dialogue or sparkle with eye-popping originality either.  Baruchel’s reluctant hero is certainly not new to the silver screen, but it is amiable due to the Barney Fife-like mentality that Baruchel so welcomingly embraces.  You will laugh at certain notes and certain lines, but when the film falls flat – which it does when it pays homage to its originating source material in the clean-up scene of mops and rising water – it does so without grace and tact.  That clomping noise in the background?  No worries, folks.  It’s just the film tripping over its own pair of pointy-toed magician shoes.

Unpleasantries aside, it is the chemistry between Baruchel and Cage, as well as Cage’s performance as the wizard of flash and fashion – a performance that arguably could have been more “Cagey” considering the entire production was his idea – that wins over its audience throughout its 90-minute running time (and earns it an extra star).  Glossy effects are fine, but they can only do so much and, with a script this breezy, performance matter most.  True, there is more heart and humor in a Pixar film these days, but, in spite of its by-the-book mentality, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice casts enough magic upon its audience to create the feature-length illusion of a good time.


Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

3 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 30, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy; BD-Live

Boldly presenting itself with a brilliant 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that absolutely rocks in color and contrast, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is indeed spectacular on the television screen. The blacks are solid and, overall, the film is filled with warm tones and great detail with grain levels and consistency.  Seriously, this film simply could not look any better for home viewing. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track also packs a solid punch with great surround detail and Trevor Rabin’s score.  It might not be subtle – at all – but it’s exciting nonetheless.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Unfortunately, Disney didn’t see fit to include a commentary with this family film.  Disappointing because – upon a second viewing – there’s a lot going on with Turteltaub’s direction. Simply put, this is his best film to date.

Special Features:

While there’s plenty of dazzle to this release, it seems the “wow factor” of they typical Disney Blu-ray suffers in the “meat and potatoes” department. There is an abundance of special features, they just don’t add up to a lot of valuable information. They are as follows:

  • "Magic in the City" (13 min)
  • "The Science of Sorcery" (11 min)
  • "Making Magic Real" (12 min)
  • "Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic" (10 min)
  • "The Fashionable Drake Stone" (2 min)
  • "The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art" (4 min)
  • "The Encantus" (2 min)
  • "Wolves & Puppies" (3 min)
  • "The World's Coolest Car" (2 min)
  • "Deleted Scenes" (8 min)
  • "Outtakes" (3 min)

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