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The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Walt Disney Studios, PG)

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While the film looked good, the performances weren't always the best.

 

Don't you love it when you're going about your normal, boring life pining for the girl you've loved for years who continues to ignore you—then a gruff (and somewhat creepy) stranger tells you he's been looking for you for centuries because only you can save the world?

Wait, that's never happened to you?

Well, at least one guy knows what this feels like. When Dave (Jay Baruchel) becomes reacquainted with Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), the mysterious man who briefly turned his life upside down ten years earlier, he realizes he's about to take another detour from his run-of-the-mill life.

There are probably thousands of writers who believe they have a cool new version of The Hero's Journey to tell. Truth is, these stories always go the same way: simple dude has great, untapped power, which he's introduced to by a puzzling stranger. Dude agrees to help that stranger save the world from unspeakable evil even though he lacks faith in himself and will give up at least once before finally realizing his full potential and kicking unspeakable evil's ass.

I realize this system of storytelling is popular for good reason. It taps into most people's desire for adventure and excitement. It fills our need to believe that good people (like us) can do amazing good and be noticed for it. It stokes the desire to contribute to the world in bigger, more interesting ways than digging ditches, helping your daughter with her homework, or answering phones for a small nonprofit.

The problem with films like The Sorcerer's Apprentice is that your target audience has probably already seen several movies with the same basic storyline, and it's going to be a lot harder to impress them. I happen to be one of those people who left the theater feeling rather unimpressed.

The film lacked the urgency needed to really pull me in. When unspeakable evil incarnate Horvath (Alfred Molina) corners Dave in a bathroom, I knew Dave was perfectly safe. From the opening credits to the film-ending battle I never felt Dave was really in any trouble; I never thought, "Holy crap, how does he get out of this?" Without bringing out those feelings in the audience, conflicts in a movie like this have no actual meaning.

While the film looked good, the performances weren't always the best. Molina was fine as the sneering villain, and Baruchel was alright, even though I thought he amped Dave's dork factor a bit too much at times. My real issue was with Cage.

I honestly don't know what to say about that man sometimes. He's often so perfect, like when he played a single-minded doting dad (who was clearly not quite right) in Kick-Ass. But often he pours on the cheese, as he does here, and it doesn't quite work. The effect is more "Nicolas Cage in a funny hat" than "super sorcerer saving the world." It wasn't bad enough to ruin the film, but it wasn't good enough to elevate it either. │Adrienne Jones

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