The Sorceror's Apprentice: Watch Disney Pull a Rabbit Out of Their Hat

This movie had a lot of potential to go wrong. The original cartoon, starring Mickey Mouse, is a short-form classic, and turning it into a modern-day, live-action feature film, especially one starring the occasionally painful to watch Nicolas Cage, seemed like it was fraught with peril -- especially if you aren't a big fan of the films of Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Cool Runnings, 3 Ninjas). Despite the trailers' general awesomeness, I had recurring visions of a train wreck of Super Mario Bros. proportions. Luckily, the movie turned out to be a fun, funny adventure that more than lives up to the original's legacy -- in fact, the scene where they pay homage to the original is my least favorite. Sorry, Mickey.

I'll admit to experiencing a bit of concern during the opening scene of the movie. The film begins with a ton of exposition, explaining the history of Merlin's apprentices Balthazar Blake (Cage), Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci). It goes on a little too long, and it's a lot of telling, not showing. But once that gets out of the way, we leap forward to the late 1990s, when Dave (Jay Baruchel) is a young boy and he meets Balthazar for the first time, and both of them find out that Dave is the Merlinian, the chosen one who can defeat evil sorceress Morgana. Both the scene and the young actor remind me of the movie Big, which is always a good thing, so it's a good thing that the scene is long enough to re-introduce Maxim, who is now awesomely, boredly, bitterly evil -- another great performance by Molina -- and give us a big wizard battle. Then events happen that put off events for a decade, and I'm left wondering what a great film this would have been with a ten-year-old lead actor.

Luckily, Jay Baruchel has his charms. True, he's playing the same character he played in She's Out of Your League (and Fanboys, and Knocked Up), but it's still a charmingly awkward character, in a way that Michael Cera's stock default setting is not. The loser college student loves physics, and builds giant Tesla coils in an old train station, and pines for the elementary school crush (now college crush) he let get away. The path he will follow for the rest of the film is pretty clear -- training montage, setback, loss of faith, falling in love, redemption, victory -- but the visuals of giant metal eagles, transforming cars, magic Chinese dragons and arcing musical Tesla coils (ripped from the YouTubes) make the hike fun. And the personal investments both Balthazar and Maxim have at stake, which Dave alone has the power to crush or realize, heighten the inherent drama in the whole quest.

It must be said, for playing a centuries-old sorcerer, Nicolas Cage is pretty understated in the movie. Sometimes Balthazar does outrageous things, but mostly he's a man of few words. When Dave asks if Balthazar is crazy, and Cage holds up his fingers really close together? I have never loved Cage more. Baruchel is adorable, as is his otherwise two-dimensional blonde love interest, and Molina is, as stated, a treasure. Bellucci doesn't get to do much in the movie besides appear in people's memories, but she's a wonderful MacGuffin. But the man who steals the entire film? Drake Stone, the flashy, Criss-Angel-esque magician whom Maxim drafts into his army of two. Played by Toby Kebbel (Prince of Persia, RocknRolla), Drake is hysterical in every scene he appears in, from bonding with Dave over apprenticeship to pooh-poohing the old ways that Maxim holds so dear. Sadly, it may take a powerful spell to bring him (and the rest of the cast) back for the sequel, but hopefully, it'll make enough money that Disney will want to play the same trick twice.

Did you see The Sorcerer's Apprentice? Let us know what you thought below, then read up on Nic Cage's greatest, most over-the-top roles, and check out our guide to kick-ass movie sorcerers!

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