The biggest problem with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is a lack of magic.
Based loosely on "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence from the 1940 animated classic "Fantasia," the film tells the story of Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), an apprentice of Merlin, who is searching for a sorcerer with the skills of King Arthur's magician. He finds the magical heir in the nerdish Dave (Jay Baruchel). The two team up to stop the sinister Horvath (Alfred Molina) from releasing the even more sinister Morgana (Alice Krige) from her nesting doll prison.
Director Jon Turteltaub selected what he thought were the right ingredients to cast a spell over moviegoers, but he never gets the mixture to work.
There are a few good — but not magical — action sequences. But those can't distract from the sleep-inducing lulls in the muddled script. Because there's no moviemaking wizardry to the direction, Cage and Baruchel stagger between being deadly serious and comically silly.
Either way, there's nothing special in Cage's performance. He looks like a third-rate street magician with his long coat and mystical hand-waving. Baruchel's OK, but he is close to getting permanently typecast as a nerd who always gets the hot girl (Teresa Palmer). His work is like seeing the same card trick for the 10th time.
Five screenwriters were involved with the film and it shows. It bounces from comedy to drama to love story for a mishmash that's about as interesting as a magician trying to saw a lady in half. The opening flashback, in particular, looks like it was added from a different movie.
It was an asinine decision to base the film on Mickey Mouse's sorcerer in "Fantasia." Except for the idea that a sorcerer has taken an apprentice and a sequence with dancing mops, the two productions have nothing in common. So why set yourself up for comparisons?
Turteltaub's effort suffers from a forced storyline, melodramatic acting and misplaced comedy. All could have been forgiven if there were a glimmer of the magic in this film's original inspiration.