We at Cage Wisdom are pleased to announce that the ‘we’ of Cage Wisdom is to grow from the seedling that was Anna and myself to the mighty oak that is me, Anna, and our two new recruits, old ham John Rushton, and young mutton Stuart Hall. Marching as to war like the Christian soliders of times past, we kick things off with John’s review of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010). John is less “enCaged” in indoctrination as myself, so do not find yourself alarmed or surprised by some potentially contentious Cage claims in the following:
Nic Cage is a Kinder Egg. The packaging looks fine, Nic’s not one of the Hollywood hotties but he ain’t too hard on the eyes. The chocolate is crap, as is anything Nic says in an interview. Then we have the toy, that mysterious element at the egg’s heart… Who knows what it will be? A dancing giraffe? A house that’s also a car? Or perhaps just a rubbish model of a depressed-looking gnome. You never know what you’re going to get, or even if you’ll be able to assemble the pieces… Much like a Nic Cage acting performance.
When a director keeps Nic on a tight leash you can get great performances, seen in Lord of War or Raising Arizona. But on the same leash you can also achieve utter blandness, as World Trade Centre and Knowing have shown. Then there are directors who let Nic out of his Cage to run free and wild, which can lead to some amazing turns – Big Daddy in Kick Ass, and of course the titular Bad Lieutenant. But be careful as this can also end up with him running around, screaming about bees and punching woman after woman, pausing only to steal bicycles, in a terrible remake of The Wicker Man. And then sometimes you end up with Ghost Rider. And nobody wants that. Nobody.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice sees Nic star as Balthazar Blake: a thousand year-old wizard, trained by Merlin himself, on a quest to find the chosen one who can defeat the evil Morgana la Fay. Surely this is a part shouting, nay SCREAMING, for Nic to be let loose to be as insane and bizarre as possible? You’d think so… but apparently not. The wackiest Cage gets is PUTTING the emphasis ON the wrong words IN sentences from TIME TO time. And he wears a silly hat.
So why the lack of a performance? I must assume he was kept on his leash. After all, this film comes from the team that brought you the pale imitation of Indiana Jones that was National Treasure, namely John Turtletaub, Jerry Bruckheimer, and all the bigwigs counting their cash up at Disney. The concept of Cage running about New York casting spells, blowing stuff up, and battling evil wizards has a lot of potential… but The Sorcerer’s Apprentice completely fails to capitalise on that potential. The whole film is played too safe. It brings to mind the also-Bruckeimer-produced Pirates of the Caribbean, a film achieved success by allowing Johnny Depp to play Jack Sparrow in the drunken, swaggering, Keith Richardsesque way he wanted. His take was originally shunned by the execs, but they were eventually persuaded to take a risk and boom – a great film! There are no risks taken here.
Sure, there are plenty of great effects and well-constructed shots, such as dragons attacking Chinatown, and giant, metal eagles swooping down over New York… but the film lacks oomph in the performances of its lead actors. Jay Baruchel is perfectly adequate as the physics-geek turned chosen one hero. Teresa Palmer is good-looking as the love interest. Alfred Molina is on good enough form as the villain of the piece (all the baddies have British accents, for the record). And Nic… well it could, and should, have been so much more from him. The story is engaging enough, although the climactic battle felt a little lacking in panache. There’s plenty of amusing moments to balance the impending doom – Morgana wants to raise an army of the dead for some reason or other, perhaps just because that’s the sort of thing evil people do. There’s even time for a (perhaps slightly half-baked) homage to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment of Fantasia, where some mops come to life and run amuck.
Overall, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the film. It’s not bad. However, there’s also nothing especially good about the film. It’s not great. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice toes the line of being a Disney live-action blockbuster. It is incredibly… alright. And if it makes enough money I’m sure we can all expect The Sorcerers’ Apprentice 2 – The Magical Boogaloo next summer. In pissing 3D.