“ Genre: Children's DVDs - Disney / Parental Guidance / Director: Jonathan Turteltaub / Actors: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Monica Bellucci, Alfred Molina ... / DVD released 2010-12-06 at Walt Disney Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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**FILM ONLY REVIEW**
When I first heard that Disney was 'remaking' the Sorcerer's Apprentice (the five minute animated sequence from Fantasia) into a live-action feature length movie, I did wonder how they could stretch out a relatively simple plot into a whole film, but then I saw it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who managed to spin four films out of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride.
The initial prologue takes place during Medieval times and shows the relationship between the three sorcerers, Balthazar (Nicholas Cage), Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) and their master, Merlin. Horvath, jealous of Balthazar and Veronica's relationship betrays them with Merlin's nemesis, Morgana, who Veronica sacrifices herself to entrap in a prison, which Balthazar protects until he can find the chosen one who is prophesied to destroy the witch, Morgana.
The film then cuts to present-day, which surprised me as I expected it to be something of a Medieval epic, so seeing the bulk of the story take place in modern times was interesting. Balthazar comes across his chosen one and tries to train him as his apprentice, in preparation for the final battle against the witch, Morgana.
Considering the story was influenced by the Mickey Mouse animated sequence in Fantasia, there isn't much reference to it apart from a brief enjoyable scene involving the mops, brooms and water. The storyline is surprisingly watchable, and feels like a post-modern Harry Potter, although it doesn't have the same charm and rich universe to launch its own franchise to compete with those movies.
Nicholas Cage puts in a good performance as Balthazar, with some wry one-liners and amusing visual jokes. He seems confident in his role as Sorcerer and most of the way through the film, I was thinking 'how comes he isn't the chosen one himself' since he had a better grip on his powers compared to Dave, his apprentice. Alfred Molina, who spends his time searching for the Russian-doll prison that keeps his mistress trapped, is a very watchable villain, managing to give a nice air of menace about the film, despite its Disney roots. The weakest factor is the character of Dave himself, played by Jay Baruchel, who seems to be unconvincing as the reluctant apprentice and looks far too old for the part of a 20-year old with quite noticeable stubble in places.
The special effects are impressive, as are the choreographed action scenes. Watching experienced Sorcerers such as Balthazar and Horvath flinging spells at each other and attempting to outsmart each other with various traps and prisons is very enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, the final battle seems to be less energetic than the previous ones but it is still enjoyable to watch.
While I doubt there will be a sequel to this film, it is a very enjoyable family film and shouldn't really be judged on-par with the Fantasia animated short that it shares its name with. I would recommend it to fans of the other Jerry Bruckheimer productions, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean or National Treasure series. Fans of Harry Potter may like this, but find it lacking in comparison to the expansive universe and complex storytelling of that franchise.
[This Review may be published on Amazon & Ciao.co.uk]
When I was growing up, one of the first Disney animated films I recall seeing was "Fantasia", largely because it was my mother's favourite. I never really enjoyed the film itself, much preferring "The Jungle Book", but I do recall being entranced by the famous scene where all the mops and brooms were dancing around out of control. When I realised that they were making an updated live action version of the film, I was intrigued to see how that scene in particular would come out.
Balthazar Blake is a sorcerer who originally served Merlin, the greatest of all sorcerers. Following Merlin's betrayal by Morgana Le Fay and her capture which involved the loss of his partner Veronica, Balthazar spends his life looking for the Prime Merlinian, the one person who can kill Morgana. A thousand years later, a young boy called David chases a piece of paper into his store and the signs are that he will be the one Balthazar has been looking for. However, his appearance releases the captured sorcerer Maxim Horvath, one of Morgana's disciples.
In the ensuing battle, both Horvath and Balthazar are trapped in an urn for ten years. Upon their release, both set about finding the Grimhold, the doll which contains Morgana. Horvath needs to release Morgana so that they can continue with her plan to take over the world and Balthazar needs to prevent this, as well as training David to become the sorcerer he is destined to be. David, however, is entranced in a different way, having just become reacquainted with the love of his young life in Becky.
I did enjoy the storyline here, as all the different sub-plots fitted together quite nicely into the whole, with nothing that stuck out so far as to be jarring. Although the meeting between David and Becky was a little too coincidental and the romantic sub-plot felt a little rushed in parts, even that fitted in quite well. Perhaps the only part of the film that didn't quite work was how quickly David became a relatively accomplished sorcerer, but given the constraints of the running time of the average film, this was only to be expected. Normally films of this type which have a number of sub-plots running through them tend to lose sight of at least one of them, often to the detriment of the film as a whole, but this didn't happen here and it made for a more enjoyable experience overall.
Perhaps surprisingly for a film of this type, particularly one made by Disney, I found the acting performances to be quite good. Jay Baruchel was the perfect choice to play David, as his voice, looks and mannerisms were ideal for a socially maladjusted physics expert, but he also played the physical comedy parts of the role very well and didn't seem at all out of place playing the hopeless romantic side of the role, either. Alfred Molina was also ideal as the nasty Morganian sorcerer Maxim Horvath, as he plays the bad guy with just the right amount of arrogance and evil that the role requires, as well as largely looking like he was enjoying himself. Molina has always made for a decent bad guy and there's no exception to that rule here.
The other main cast members were also effective, although slightly less so. Nicolas Cage doesn't have quite the right look or attitude to play a Disney style hero and this leaves you slightly unsure at points what side he is on. Although he doesn't play Balthazar with the same evil arrogance of Molina's Horvath, he's not as lovable as Baruchel's David, somehow inhabiting a world between the good and evil sides, blurring the boundaries a little. Teresa Palmer's Becky has less to do, but plays the girlfriend role well and there's a surprisingly convincing American accent coming from the mouth of an Australian actress. Alice Krige as Morgana and Monica Bellucci as Veronica seem to do OK in their roles, but their involvement is so minimal it's tough to tell, but Toby Kebbell's Drake Stone is the perfect foil to Molina's Horvath and has some fun lines.
The script adds to the entertainment value of the plot, as there are some snappy lines, but very few of them seem forced or played purely for laughs. The two main sorcerers have been enemies for some time and get to insult each other, as does David when he meets Balthazar again. There is one line which references "Star Wars" which is perhaps a little too obvious and the physical comedy aspects of David's attempts to use the plasma balls is also perhaps a touch too obvious, especially with one particular joke, but overall the humour here is pitched to a decent level and would appeal to younger viewers as well as to adults.
In a film about magic and sorcery, the main focus was always likely to be on the special effects and I've seen any number of films where these are poorly enough done that they take the edge off the film. I'm pleased to be able to say that this doesn't happen here. There are lots of plasma balls and flames flying around all over the place and being used to create shapes and there's no point at which they stand out as being poorly rendered. Admittedly, you can never think of them as anything other than special effects, but they always mesh perfectly with the rest of the film. There is one amazing sequence involving a bull and an eagle that would have been so easy to get wrong, but looks wonderful and the recreation of the dancing mops scene works as well here as it ever did in the animated original, much to my surprise. The stunt work, which was mostly characters being thrown around by the impact of a spell was also well done and looked believable - or as much so as anything could do in a film like this.
The soundtrack was a bit of a revelation as well. Although the original classical score was retained for the most famous scene, the rest of the score has eschewed classical music for a more modern soundtrack. The mixing of a One Republic song with the electrical sounds supposedly made by the Tesla coils in David's laboratory worked especially well for me and made for a decent change to the normal soundtrack on films like this, as well as providing a decent mixture between the two styles.
Indeed, this is a film which does more or less everything very well, yet it still left me feeling a little cold. I don't know exactly what it was about it, but somehow some of the enchantment was gone. Yes, there were some scenes which would fill a watcher with wonder, especially with the flashes of light and electricity there were and the whole thing was visually stunning, but for all the sorcery on display, it just didn't have the magic of the original animated "Fantasia", which was a shame as that was the only thing lacking. Maybe it's just my age now compared to then, or maybe it's not feeling quite settled with Nicolas Cage as the main good guy, but "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" didn't enchant me, even if it did entertain me passably well.
In terms of the extras, there's nothing magical here. There is a "Making of the Sorcerer's Apprentice" featurette which runs just over 21 minutes. Predictably, there is a lot of positivity on show, especially in terms of comparisons with the original "Fantasia", which provided the inspiration for this film. Fortunately, the praise doesn't get as gushing as it sometimes can on these featurettes, although it does perhaps go a little over the top when talking about some of the sets and on filming in New York City, but there was less of the usual insincere "I loved working with so-and-so..." that you often find.
The part I enjoyed the most was about the special effects and the stunts. I was quite surprised to see how much was done with stunt work and old-fashioned physical effects rather than computer generated images. These days, it's so easy to assume that things have been done by computer, it's a shock to find out that it hasn't and the parts of the feature that focus on that make this slightly more interesting that the average "Making Of..." featurette.
There is also a 2 minute deleted scene, which would have added little to the story, but does provide some comedy value. Given how many scenes tend to get dropped during the editing of the average film, I'm surprised there is only one here and can't see the point of including it at all, if that was the only one.
Given that the DVD can be found for as little as £4.99 from Amazon for a new DVD or from as little as £2.50 including postage from eBay, this can be found for fairly decent value and it's a great film that all the family will find something to enjoy in. However, because of the lack of magic here, it's not something that would be watched more than once and so it's better placed for a rental or to watch when it appears on the film channels or on terrestrial TV. I enjoyed it, which makes the hollow feeling I have after watching it feel a little strange, but it's an unusually workmanlike adaptation from the Disney studio rather than a magical experience.
- Story -
10 years after a scary encounter in New York with a sorceror by a little boy called Dave, he encounters him again and is told that he could be a 'Merlinian', a descendent of Merlin who is capable of great powers but he'll have to train if he wants to fulfill his potential and thus become the sorcerers apprentice. Dave has enough on his plate having endured 10 years of people mocking him, not believing what he claims to have seen a decade ago. However, its not just the good sorceror Balthazar (who wishes to take Dave in as his said apprentice) thats around, there's his arch nemesis Maxim Horvath to deal with. Its not long before their in a race against time to reclaim a seemingly harmless item that Maxim is determined to use his evil powers to bring an evil villainess out of - this could spell the end of good in the world forever.
Can our unlikely hero Dave learn his craft, if he even possesses the potential Balthazar sees in him and can they stop Maxim in time before evil takes hold? you'll have to watch the movie to find out.
- Thoughts & Opinions -
This is very much a modern day movie but with one scene harking back to the famous sorcerors apprentice scene/section from Disney's classic Fantasia. Fantasia is much more child friendly than this movie in terms of being suitable for younger children, this movie I'd imagine would be pretty scary to toddlers and younger children below the age of eight or nine at least - the special effects are quite convincing, with one involving lots of insects (I think they were cockroaches) coming together and forming the villain (a bit like the sort of thing that featured in The Mummy, I suppose, though its not quite as scary as that, I *think* The Mummy is a 12 rate and this film is only rated PG), things like that would have scared me as a very young child.
Away from that issue, the movie itself felt perhaps a little limp, even perhaps forced at the start, after an introduction to the background of Balthazar, his story, the history that paints the scene before we rejoin our reluctant hero in the present day but as it progresses, it becomes more engrossing - yes its very much a fantasy movie, you just have to go with the story but then I really can't lower my score for this movie because of this, I mean obviously the title gives a decent clue as to the type of movie it is and its Disney, plus for its target market I don't think they've gone too far wrong, though I may find it a bit cheesy that there's the inevitable sub-plot with Dave becoming romantically involved with a girl (or desperately trying to, as he's seen as the rather socially awkward out cast, which is the norm for these movies), which again might put off younger kids who'd be bored with such a sub-plot (or think its gross that he likes a girl hehe), eh its the usual Disney fodder I suppose but I felt that overall it was a pretty solid movie, for what it is and most importantly, I was really quite engrossed in the ending, I found it quite entertaining and thought it featured some impressive scenes along the way. If your familiar with the two National Treasure movies which Nicolas Cage also played a lead role in, then this movie will perhaps seem similar and its not just because Cage appears in it but also because Jon Turteltaub directed all three movies. I would say that as a comparison, in this movie the emphasis is more on Jay Baruchel as Dave than Nicolas Cage as Balthazar.
I wonder what it is with New York somehow ending up being the place where there's supposedly so much nasty supernatural activity and the ability to summon up evil just happens to lie dormant? thinking about it, I'm reminded of the Ghostbusters movies which of course were similar, especially i think it was the sequel involving an evil possessed painting and a baby - in this movie the baby is of course love struck and rather unassuming Dave - the good ol' reluctant hero. There are some fairly fast action scenes and these are what, to me, made the movie - the storyline is perhaps a bit complicated to follow and there are some scenes which break up the faster action scenes, ie dialogue based scenes, which is another reason why I suppose younger children wouldn't necessarily enjoy this movie but its good that there's a balance between plot and visual effects. My favourite scene involves a long car chase which is very engrossing and even features a magic mirror trick, whereby Dave and Balthazar end up in a parallel version of the same road they were on before, only in this one everything is back to front I think, which made for a pretty cool effect seeing all the billboards etc. back to front.
This is a Disney fantasy movie set in modern times (well 2010 anyway), so its pretty much what you'd expect and for that, I can't really fault it, so I'm going to be generous and give it the maximum star score as I felt overall I really quite enjoyed it and although I was perhaps a bit sceptical about the storyline at first, by the end I felt gripped and I certainly thought it was entertaining with some good effects, so I can't really complain, for me its a very good movie of its type.
- Would I Recommend it? -
Yes I'd recommend this movie (see the paragraph above for more details) - its probably not perfect, well ok it isn't entirely perfect but I don't expect it to be and I think that for a Disney, live action movie for slightly older kids and teens that enjoy such action/fantasy movies, this is a perfectly decent movie. Its perhaps a bit daft but then thats the fun of it really, isn't it? and im not going to do the obvious and grump about the villain being British (or should I say English, im a Scot so thats fine by me LOL j/k!!), I think thats a long running Disney um habit...I'd rather look past that and rate and recommend this film based on how I felt about it by the time the credits rolled and I felt that it was a good movie with decent action, a good car chase scene (always have to mention that, I do love those lol), decent enough performances and some pretty impressive special effects, so its a thumbs up from me - its not perfect but hey what do you expect? its meant to be a movie for younger people anyway...
I hope this review was useful to you, thanks for taking the time to read it and thanks for all rates and comments. This review was originally posted on Ciao UK.
" The Sorcerers Apprentice" is a 2010 Live action fantasy film directed by John Turteltaub and starring Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina and Jay Baruchel and named after the famous sequence of the same name from Walt Disney's Fantasia.
Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness. It'll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
I wasn't expecting much from the Sorcerers Apprentice as really its a live action kids movie, and outside of the Harry Potter films, i've not seen a movie in this genre that i've enjoyed and wanted to watch again probably in the last 10 years, but the Sorcerers Apprentice surprised me, the name of the film is taken from the famous scene in the Fantasia movie ( and there is even an homage to that at one point in the movie ) but other than the name is a completely different movie and plot.
The special effects are impressive and will no doubt impress the pre-teen crowd, and while its a little predictable and you can see in parts where it could have been edgier, it clearly was toned down to not alienate the kids.
Nicolas Cage does a decent job in his role as Balthazar ( but what the hell happened to this guys career, he won an oscar but now is doing Disney movies for a paycheck ), Alfred Molina is delightful as Maxim and while you know he never will actually kill anyone in this movie, he seems to be able to deliver the constant threat of it, which is impressive.
But the standout of the movie is of course young Jay Baruchel, while the role is a far cry from his initial hollywood offerings ( Knocked up etc ) he settles into it nicely and is amusing and sweet in equal parts, he's non-threatening enough to appeal to the kids, and amusing enough to give the adults some comic relief.
Again, if you're looking for complex plot arc's and twists and turns along the way you're in the wrong place, but if you're after predictable disney fare with some very nice special effects and a plot thats easy to follow for both kids and adults alike then this is the movie for you
Balthazar Blake is a sorcerer who has spend centuries trying to find the chosen one to defeat the dark forces which threaten the world. He was once an apprentice of Merlin and when Merlin was killed he captured the evil wizards and locked them in a special nesting doll where they will stay until some one can destroy them.
Dave is an ordinary 10 year old boy who goes on a school trip to New York where he stumbles upon a strange shop which gives him the fright of his life. He meets Balthazar who discovers he is the chosen one. Unfortunately an evil wizard is set free and after a fight they both get locked in an urn for 10 years. Dave his the next 10 years of his life trying to forget and get over the fright he had that day. That is until Balthazar is released from the urn and he tracks him down.
Balthazar now has to convince Dave of his power and the fact he is the chosen one and the only person who can destroy the evil wizards. Can Balthazar make Dave understand this and if not what will happen if the evil escapes and takes over the world?
I have been looking forward to watching this film as the trailers made it look good. I do enjoy Disney films and the added bonus to this one was the fact Nicholas Cage starred as Balthazar and I find he is always very good in his roles. This film was very enjoyable and both me and hubby loved it. I felt the story was great and despite having not seen the original animated version of this I was easily able to follow the story and felt it was modern and quite realistic. The story did not get overly far fetched and I felt it was kept quite down to earth and simple for the younger audience to be able to follow it with ease.
The acting was great, the role of Balthazar was played by Nicholas Cage and he was brilliant in the role. He was strong and determined throughout but we did get to see flashes of another side to him when he gave a few one liners which made both me and hubby chuckle. He worked well with his magical abilities and I felt he took the role to a good depth and made his character very believable. There was a good connection on screen with his and Dave and I felt at times he was a father figure to him. Dave was played by Jay Baruchel and I felt he was a great choice. He was a normal 20 year old male who was having issues getting ladies and I felt this was a good inclusion in the film as it gave the story some depth. He was able to make me feel a good amount of emotions. I was sad for him when he was young and then felt amused and happy for him when he was older. He too worked well with the magical elements and I again thought he was very believable in the role. I did think these two actors were a good paring as the comedy timing from them both was perfect and this meant the film had a slightly lighter note throughout.
We did have some good support actors in the film, including the likes of Alfred Molina, Toby Kebbell, Monica Bellucci and James A Stephens. They too were all very strong in their roles and played very different roles which helped to bring the film to life.
As you can imagine with this film being about magic there are lots of CGi and special effects right from the start of the film. The effects were all made to a very high standard and I felt they were not overly produced so they fitted effortlessly into the film and looked very real. I found the actors worked exceptionally well with all of the effects and stunts which were included. I did not notice any added backdrops or parts which looked fake and thought a lot of time, money and effort went into the effects. There is also a lot of action in the film which was also well made and added in to the film.
There are a few parts to the film which I must advise caution to parents over. We do have the lead roles in danger at times, being chased by evil wizards and dragons but none of this goes over the edge and it is all fantasy violence so I think children over the age of 7 will be fine with it all. I would suggest that if you are going to be letting younger children watch then give it a viewing yourself first as you will be able to judge for yourself then over the suitability of these parts.
The music throughout the film was great and fitted very well. The dramatic parts of the story were given slightly classical and orchestral scores and I loved this aspect of this film as it helped add to the drama of the scenes. I liked the few modern songs which we got and I have to say I noticed immediately when the Fantasia track was used and I am pleased it was again used in this re make. I felt the setting for the story was good and felt it worked being in the modern time. I thought he costumes and props were all very good and consistent throughout the film but I also enjoy the element of old which Balthazar bought to the film too.
The running time of the film is 105 minutes long and I did find this to be a good length with the story moving at a good pace from start to finish, I think children will be able to watch for this length as there is enough to keep them entertained throughout. The rate is a PG and I agree with this. We bought the DVD for £5 in Tesco and I think this is a great price. The DVD does have some bonus features but as I have not watched them I cannot make comment so this is going to be a film only review.
I am more than happy to recommend this film and give it a good solid 4 stars. It is a good family film and children will easily be able to follow the story. I cannot comment or compare it to the original as I have never watched it but for me this is a great film which is modern and up to date and well worth the price tag.