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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

November 28th, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, or Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack

Ever since Harry Potter first broke records, practically every studio has tried to cash in on a similar "Kid Sorcerer" film. Most have failed. Disney tried this summer with The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which was partially adapted from The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of the original Fantasia. That short is one of the most memorable cartoons ever made, and even 70 years after its debut it is thought of fondly. Will this film have the same staying power?

The Movie

The film starts with a prologue in which we learn the back story of Merlin, and how one of his apprentices, Horvath, betrayed him and joined forces with his mortal enemy, Morgana Le Fey. Merlin is killed, but his other two apprentices, Balthazar and Veronica, imprison Morgana. Unfortunatly, Veronica is trapped as well. Before Merlin dies, Balthazar gives him a dragon ring telling him that it will help him find the one that can defeat Morgana once and for all. He continues his search for more than 1200 years.

Flash forward to the year 2000, Balthazar meets 10-year old Dave when the latter takes a field trip to New York City. The meeting goes poorly for everyone. After learning he is the chosen one, Dave accidentally unleashes Horvath, Horvath and Balthazar battle, and the two of them are locked away in a magical urn for exactly ten years.

Flash forward ten years later, and Dave is a student at New York University living a normal life. That is until the urn releases Horvath, followed shortly by Balthazar and their battle begins anew, only with Dave stuck in the middle. At first Dave wants nothing to do with the fight, but soon accepts his destiny and joins Balthazar.

The easiest way to describe this movie is say it's a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Depending on who you are, this is either a compliment or an insult. But it is undeniably his film and not so much an adaptation of the short film Fantasia. While the short is replicated in this movie, it is made much bigger, and loses its charm in the process. In fact, that sums up the film rather nicely. It's as big as any summer blockbuster, but it lacks charm. It's a movie about a centuries old battle between good and evil with the very fate of mankind lying in the balance. So what happens? There's a car chase through the streets of New York City. Sure, there's magic involved, but it is still a car chase. Additionally, the magical duels, and there are a lot of them, lack any cinematic magic. It's usually just two people standing there in silly poses while special effects shoot back and forth at each other. When they do break away from that mold (like the dragon attack in Chinatown then the movie comes alive. But that doesn't happen nearly enough.

That does bring up a couple of side points. Firstly... A parade in Chinatown? Could they not come up with something a little more original? Secondly, on a science related side note, the claim that people only using 10% of their brains is a myth. There are a couple of theories from whch that myth originated, one being only about 10% of our neurons are firing at any one time and another being that at the time it was first stated, only about 10% of our brains had been mapped out. Regardless, it has been repeated far too many times and now when a screenwriter uses it, it feels lazy. I do appreciate the attempt to make the magic grounded in science, but trying and failing is sometimes worse than not trying at all.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include just the making of featurette and some deleted scenes.

The Blu-ray has many, many small making of featurettes on various subjects from filming in New York City, creating the magic special effects, cast & crew talk about Fantasia, featurettes on concept art, etc. There's a large number of them, but many are only two or three minutes long, which is simply not long enough to be satisfying. Strangely, there's no audio commentary track, and nothing that pushes Blu-ray technology.

The film does look and sound great in High Definition. Many scenes are very dark, but you never have shadows sucking up details. While there level of detail and the brightness of the colors never falters. There's excellent use of the surround sound speakers with many, many directional effects used, especially in the sorcerers' duels. Since the Blu-ray only costs $3 more than the DVD, and it comes with the DVD, it is hard to argue with that price. On the other hand, spending $7 more to get a digital copy is too much to pay.

The Verdict

There's a good movie buried within The Sorcerer's Apprentice but somewhere along the line something went wrong. Not horribly wrong, mind you, and the end result is entertaining enough to be worth watching, but flawed enough that it lacks replay value. Call it a rental. If you are interested in buying, then the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is clearly the better deal over the DVD or the Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack.

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