The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Blu-ray Review

Disney is the definitely the best movie studio around that markets its films and its characters. Many would just consider Disney to be all about making money these days, but ever since Mickey Mouse appeared on TV and Snow White was created, people all over the world have fallen in love with the stories and the characters therein. Initially in business to make animated films, Disney has transitioned itself over the years to make films for adults as well as children and sometimes to be enjoyed equally. But it still tries to create characters that will hopefully be remembered for a lifetime. The most recent example of this is Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. Nicolas Cage is not Johnny Depp, though, but that didn’t stop producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney from taking one of their classic animated films, Fantasia, and basing an entire movie on its timeless “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” clean-up scene with Cage as the star. Ready or not, here comes The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on Blu-ray.

Cage plays a great sorcerer named Balthazar Blake. He is one of a very few trusted by Merlin himself with the secrets of magic. On the other hand, another one of Merlin’s apprentices, Horvath (Alfred Molina), was trusted by Merlin but later turned on him. Horvath wants to take over the world, but Balthazar vows to stop him from doing that by finding the boy known as the “Prime Merlinian,” whose powers can stop Hovath. Cue Dave, just an average kid until circumstances lead him to meet Balthazar. Balthazar thinks Dave is the Prime Merlinian and intends to take him on as his apprentice until the near escape of an old enemy (Molina) traps the old sorcerer in a jar, sending Dave back into the world with no understanding of what just happened. Ten years later, both Balthazar and Horvath get released to the world, both knowing that Dave holds the key to saving the world or enslaving it for all time. Meanwhile, Dave (Jay Baruchel) is now a genius Physics student who is still lusting after his schoolyard crush Becky (Teresa Palmer).

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a strong mixture of different franchises and movie properties. Harry Potter, The Sword in the Stone, Spider Man, National Treasure, and Fantastia, among others. And such mixture does not allow for much in the way of originality. But the biggest negative with the writing, though, is that the magic behind everything that is happening is never explained. Maybe they thought too much explanation would go over the heads of the target PG rated demographic. But what about the adults who enjoy watching films no matter what the rating is? Being that this is a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster summer film, the biggest positives are the action scenes and the special effects. Not the greatest in either area, but decent enough.

The casting is overall good, but there are some lackluster starring roles. Nicolas Cage is rather subdued as Balthazar. Those expecting a flipped-out Nicolas Cage (see The Wicker Man) will be sorely disappointed. He could have used a little Captain (Jack Sparrow) in him. Jay Baruchel pretty much owns the nerdy guy character, so he is great in his role as Dave, the reluctant hero. Cage and Baruchel do mostly have good chemistry with each other. The biggest weakness has to the Aussie, Teresa Palmer, as Dave’s love interest. First, it feels like the whole romantic subplot was shoehorned in at the last second. More importantly, Palmer is rather bland. She looks the part, but doesn’t really pull off her role completely. The most interesting characters, though, are the villains, mainly Horvath, played by Alfred Molina.

After watching the end of the credits, it’s clear that Bruckheimer wants to make sequels to this movie and create a new franchise. But ironically there doesn’t seem to be enough magic here to recreate another successful movie franchise. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is not horrible. In fact, it’s mostly entertaining. It’s just an average film that is saved mostly by the acting and special effects. Had the writing been a little sharper and the acting a little better, this could have been a better than average film that might be worthy of having sequels. As it is, though, it’s just another average fun family action-adventure film.

This Blu-ray release contains both the Blu-ray and standard DVD version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The video on the BD is presented in 1080p/AVC/MPEG-4 at the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. This transfer is great. All of the images and colors look bright and vibrant. The video for the standard definition DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen color at the 2.40:1 ratio as well. This transfer is great too and about on par with other new release DVDs. There is really not much difference between either version to the average eye, though. No major video problems on either disc.

The audio included on the Blu-ray Disc is available in English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Surround sound, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The audio included on the standard DVD is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. Both discs feature dialogue and music that come out loud and clear. As expected, the Blu-ray disc sounds a little better than the standard definition DVD, but there is really not much difference between the two versions. No major problems on either disc here either.

Blu-Ray Exclusives

“Magic in the City” Featurette – This runs 13 minutes and it’s all about the sorcerer battle scenes that were filmed in New York City. There are various interviews with cast and crew talking about the challenges of the sets and streets.

“The Science of Sorcery” Featurette – This runs 10 minutes and it talks about the science behind all of the magical stuff. They take you through all of the props and locations to explain the applications of the magical weapons.

“Making Magic Real” Featurette – This runs 12 minutes and it talks about the how all the magical “tricks” were created to give the illusion of magic throughout the film. This includes using air cannons, lighting effects, rigs, etc.

“‘Fantasia:’ Reinventing a Classic” Featurette – This runs 10 minutes and it talks all about how they recreated the iconic scene from Fantasia with Mickey Mouse and all of the dancing mops, etc.

“The Fashionable Drake Stone” Featurette – This runs 2 minutes and actor Toby Kebbell talks about his transformation into an evil magician, patterned after the new icons of the Las Vegas strip.

“The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art” Featurette – This runs 4 minutes and it talks about the creation of the magical Russian nesting doll that brings everyone trouble.

“The Encantus” Featurette – This runs 2 minutes and it talks about the practical and digital work used to create the sorcerer’s guidebook.

“Wolves & Puppies” Featurette – This runs 3 minutes and it’s all about the animal cast of the film.

“The World’s Coolest Car” Featurette – This runs 1 1/2 minutes and it’s all about the 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom used in the film as Balthazar’s personal car. Cage actually owns this car in real life too.

Deleted Scenes – There are 5 scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film and they total 8 minutes. Nothing much to see here.

Outtakes – There is 3 minutes worth of gags and bloopers from filming. Not that funny.

Features also found on the DVD disc as well

“The Making of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” -This runs 22 minutes and it’s the basic behind-the-scenes/making of featurette. It covers the concept of the film, the visual effects, and creating the Fantasia homage. Basically, a general overview of all the above featurettes.

Deleted Scene – There is only 1 deleted scene included on the standard definition DVD.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a good family film with just enough excitement to make things entertaining. Not a definitely-needs-to-be-in-the-collection title, but is passable as a rental.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Written by Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard. Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Monica Bellucci, Omar Benson Miller, Alice Krige, and Jake Cherry.. Running time: 109 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: November 30, 2010.

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