The length and style of Nicolas Cage’s wigs have a lot to do with the nature of his films. In “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” he’s sporting a doozy.
Long, curly and unwashed, Cage wears the kind of hair only a master of the black arts could get away with. And sure enough, as the title tells us, Balthazar Blake is a sorcerer, whose exploits go back more than a thousand years.
Ever since the time of Merlin, Balthazar has been knocking around in search of a supremely gifted new sorcerer — a “Prime Merlinian” destined to help defeat the baddest of all wizards. These evil types have spent much of the last 1,000 years trapped in a nesting doll Balthazar has kept sealed.
Uh-huh. All right, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is going to be geared for younger audiences (not little kids), so a certain amount of nonsense is expected.
Moving on, we find young Dave Butler, played by Jay Baruchel. Not only does “Dave Butler” not sound like a sorcerer’s name (apologies to all Dave Butlers out there, but it’s no Morgan le Fay), he presents a scrawny, nerdy appearance to the world.
Will his newfound training in the conjuring biz get the attention of his dream girl (Teresa Palmer)? Will he embrace his destiny? Will his voice ever change, even though he’s already 20?
All these questions will be answered in a movie that coasts for much of its running time on the mentor-student training sequences that will be cheerfully familiar to “Harry Potter” devotees.
This being a Disney film, the action is tame, the jokes are goofy and there’s room for a giant metal eagle to fly off a New York skyscraper and ferry our heroes around.
The title should also summon up memories of “Fantasia,” and its classic sequence of the sorcerer’s apprentice (Mickey Mouse, in that case), losing control of his mops and buckets. Sure enough, this film builds in a sequence where Dave uses his still-wobbly powers to sweep up his laboratory (he’s a physics student), and the homage to “Fantasia” is completed.
Director Jon Turteltaub, who guided Cage in the silly-but-fun “National Treasure” pictures, keeps the attitude light, with few dead patches along the way. Cage looks as though he doesn’t take any of this seriously, which I’m not sure was the right approach — but he is playing a 1,000-year-old sorcerer, so what choice did he have?
Baruchel continues his string of animated, adenoidal lads (he was lately seen in “She’s Out of My League” and “Tropic Thunder”), and he is indeed a funny kid.
Alfred Molina and Toby Kebbell are the two evil wizards (the latter disguised in these modern times as a David Blaine-like celebrity magician), and Italian star Monica Bellucci lends her iconic beauty to a cameo part.
This movie’s a standard summer time-killer: It lands somewhere between the giddiness of “Kick-Ass” and the DOA boredom of “The Last Airbender.”
At least it doesn’t pretend to be in 3-D, for which we can all give thanks.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (2 1/2 stars)
A summer time-killer with a 1,000-year-old sorcerer (Nicolas Cage) finding a gifted young wizard (Jay Baruchel) to wage battle with ancient baddies in modern New York. Geared for young audiences (not little kids), the movie has some attitude and some humor, and nobody seems to be taking it too seriously — both a plus and a minus, in this case.
Rated: PG for violence.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.