Nicolas Cage's latest family film has just enough magic to entertain this summer, writes DAMON SMITH.
HALF way through Jon Turteltaub's fast-paced yarn, the eponymous hero calls on what little magical knowledge he possesses to command an army of mops to clean his secret hideaway. It only takes a couple of notes of Paul Dukas's rhythmic orchestral work, featured most famously in the Disney animation Fantasia, for us to realise that enchanted cleaning tools and endless buckets of sloshing water are a recipe for disaster, or a sizeable insurance claim.
Like so much in the film, this well-orchestrated scene promises copious tongue-in-cheek thrills but does not quite deliver.
Certainly, Turteltaub's film has its pleasures, including a Chinatown dragon on poles that metamorphoses into a 'real' mythical beastie that rampages through the New York district, and some droll humour, as when the sorcerer explains that once his protege enters Merlin's Circle to begin his training, there is no going back, and the apprentice grins, "So I should pee first?"
However, the screenwriters' weak potion of family-friendly action, comedy and romance does not linger long in the memory. Harry Potter's wand won't be trembling in his hand.
As a boy, Dave Stutler (Cherry) wanders into the Arcana Cabana antiques store and has a strange conversation with its owner, Balthazar Blake (Cage), who reveals that the youngster is to become a great wizard - the Prime Merlinian - and defeat the forces of evil under the control of Morgana Le Fay (Krige).
Before Balthazar can begin the youngster's tuition, dastardly rival Maxim Horvath (Molina) intervenes and a fight ensues, trapping both sorcerers inside a magical urn.
Ten years later to the day, Dave (now played by Baruchel) is a brilliant physics student with an unrequited crush on pretty classmate, Becky (Palmer).
Balthazar and Maxim finally escape their pottery purgatory and both men race to track down Dave, who possesses an enchanted Russian doll that imprisons Morgana for all eternity.
Thankfully, Dave has Balthazar to protect him while he learns the basics of sorcery. So Maxim takes his own apprentice, world famous illusionist Drake Stone (Kebbell), and together they plot Morgana's resurrection.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice opens with a prologue set in Britain 740AD that sketches the legend of Merlin and his three apprentices before fast-forwarding to the 21st-century Big Apple.
Baruchel plays another lovable nerd, who has an endearingly clumsy way with words.
Banter with Cage is peppered with a few nice one-liners and equal number of clichés and the romance with Palmer is lukewarm, justifying her presence in the film with a small yet pivotal role in the final showdown.
"Civilians mustn't know magic exists. That would be ... complicated," Balthazar cryptically informs Dave.
Turteltaub's film certainly is not complicated. You will not need to cast a spell of clairvoyance to foresee how Dave's journey ends - nor to recognise the potential opening for a sequel.