Seeing that title, most folks would immediately think of the animated segment in the 1940 classic, Fantasia, starring Mickey Mouse, which was remastered in the 1999 sequel, Fantasia 2000. But no, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was also a 2010 live-action fantasy/comedy film starring Nicolas Cage, who initiated the project with his desire to portray a magician—in this case, a very ancient sorcerer. The film had so-so reviews and did poorly at the box office, which made it an ideal Guilty Pleasure.
IT’S THE COOLEST JOB EVER
With that (rather silly) tagline, here is a brief synopsis of the film’s early scenes. In eighth century England Merlin the Magician has three apprentices, called Merlineans: Balthazar Blake (Cage), Veronica Gorloisin (Monica Bellucci), and Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Horvath turns against his master and joins forces with the evil sorceress, Morgana le Fay, to kill Merlin. Veronica, who is Balthazar’s lover, sacrifices herself by trapping Morgana’s soul into her own body. To protect Veronica, Balthazar imprisons her in the Grimhold—a nesting doll, believe it or not. He also sticks Horvath in one of the layers.
Before dying, Merlin entrusts Balthazar with a dragon figure that he says will identify the Prime Merlinean, a descendent of his, the only person who can defeat Morgana should she free herself. Subsequently, the immortal Balthazar travels through the centuries searching for the Prime Merlinean without success, though he is able to trap other Morganians in the Grimhold.
THE CHOSEN IS…A PHYSICS NERD?
In the year 2000, Balthazar runs a magic shop called Arcana Cabana in Manhattan. Enter 10-year-old Dave Stutler, a nerdy kid who has wandered away from a school field trip. Balthazar shows him the dragon figure, which wraps itself around Dave’s finger. Could it be that Balthazar has found the Prime Merlinean? He thinks so.
But the clutzy Dave accidentally frees Horvath from the Grimhold. He and Balthazar battle for possession of the doll but become trapped in an ancient urn that has a ten-year lock curse placed on it. Dave, carrying the Grimhold, flees the store, which is burning, but is confronted by his teacher and classmates. The teacher, dubious over Dave’s story, looks inside the store, where all is quiet. Dave throws the doll into the street, where it is picked up by a Chinese lady.
WAS HE CRAZY, OR WHAT?
Flash forward ten years. Twenty-year-old Dave (Jay Baruchel) is now a brilliant but insecure physics student at New York University. He’s undergone psychiatric counseling through the years to deal with what happened that day at Arcana Cabana. Still, he’s held on to the dragon figure all this time.
The Chinese urn, now an ornament in someone’s apartment, releases Horvath and Balthazar in that order. Horvath goes after Dave to retrieve the Grimhold. Balthazar rescues Dave and identifies the location of the Grimhold as somewhere in Chinatown. Dave agrees to help him find the doll but draws the line at Balthazar wanting to train him in magic so that he, as the Prime Merlinean, can defeat Morgana le Fay and her minions.
The scene in Chinatown, where a celebration is going on in the street, is an absolute hoot. Horvath has managed to release a Morganian named Sun Lok, who turns a paper dragon into a real one. Dave, with his so far limited magical abilities, manages to defeat Sun Lok and the dragon, while Balthazar retrieves the Grimhold. The sorcerer agrees to leave Dave alone so that he can pursue his academic interests, as well as his childhood crush, a young woman named Becky. But Dave decides that he likes magic and tells Balthazar that he wants to become…the sorcerer’s apprentice.
All of the above transpires in the first third of the film, so there is plenty yet to come. With all of the action and intensity, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is often hilarious. And yes, the famous scene where the apprentice (both Mickey Mouse and Dave Stutler) commands one mop to clean the floor, which gets out of hand as the spell brings countless mops to life, is part of this film, as are portions of the symphonic poem by Paul Dukas. This is an entertaining film with a great climax, and it’s a shame that it was not well received.