Magic, suspense, action, romance and Arthurian mythology are what’s served up in the new collaboration of “Walt Disney Pictures” with Director Jon Turteltaub (“National Treasure”), producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise) and actor/producer Nicolas Cage (“Kick Ass” and “National Treasure”). Based slightly off a beloved scene from Disney’s 1940 hit “Fantasia,” the writers and producers flush out a full story from the concept and turn it into a full-length feature film for the whole family.
Starting off in ancient times, we see Merlin battling evil, accompanied by his three apprentices: Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci). Horvath betrays the trio and joins the evil sorceress Morgana (Alice Krige), who is hell-bent on world destruction and domination. Morgana is entrapped in a magical grimhold doll and Merlin is defeated, but not before giving Balthazar a mystical Dragon ring that will lead him to the “Prime Merlinian” — the successor of Merlin and the only sorcerer who will be able to finally put an end to the evil Morgana.
Centuries pass and Balthazar treks across the world in search of the young boy the ring will identify as “the one.” In New York, he runs across a young boy, Dave Stutler, who winds up being the “Prime Merlinian.” But an unfortunate encounter leads to young Dave being mocked and ridiculed and Balthazar being out of the picture for 10 years. Now, Dave (Jay Baruchel) is in college and majoring in Physics, is not into much else besides his science and research and has a serious crush on the girl of his dreams Becky (Teresa Palmer), but is intimidated to pursue her. Balthazar returns, looking to train Dave and teach him to wield his inner powers, while Horvath also returns looking for the grimhold doll that entraps his master Morgana as well as other evil wizards. Will Balthazar be able to help Dave develop the discipline needed to reach his potential, or will Horvath find and release the evils that will encompass and enslave the world?
I will just say it: this film is a fun summer movie that the whole family can enjoy. Based off just a small wordless animated scene, they really do take the essence of it and make it into an entertaining, enjoyable movie. Yes, the script isn’t the most original idea this summer, but the effects, mixed with comedy as well as a strong cast, makes it a movie worth seeing.
Lately, Nicolas Cage has gotten slack for not choosing the best roles or movies, but I really enjoyed him as the strict sorcerer trying to help his young apprentice embrace his destiny while also fighting some inner demons of his own. Jay Baruchel plays the shy science geek excellently — as we knew he could based off his previous films where he has shown us his awkwardly comedic side. The pairing of Cage and Baruchel meshes nicely and they have a believable teacher/student relationship. There are several love-story subplots in this movie but they all take a back seat to the sorcery and mastering of it by Dave. Although one worthy of mentioning is Dave and Becky, not totally believable as a couple but they have enough chemistry between them to adequately pull it off.
Now onto the bad guys. Alfred Molina is a great and menacing villain, as we have seen him do in the past. Although he is not the main antagonist in this film, we see him the most. I did like Alice Krige as Morgana and wish she had a bit more screen time; those two mixed with a few other evil wizards that have small appearances in this film make up quite the nightmarish team of villains.
The ominous atmosphere they create on the streets of New York seems to only enhance and ground this film in reality. One of the coolest scenes in the movie was the car chase through the busy streets of Manhattan and all of the lights and scenery made it a delight to watch.
I did have a few gripes with this film, starting with the fact that they cut out scenes and parts that were in previous trailers I have seen, so I never got to see those parts to which I was really forward. Secondly, the plot isn’t the strongest one out there and similar stories have been told, but it is the visuals and comedic timing of this film that makes it so enjoyable.
Not very often are there summer films everyone can see that aren’t animated features, this is one of those rare movies that mom and dad and all of the kids can watch a live-action film, laugh together and be excited about. The film-makers mixed mythologies with magic, sorcery with science … to produce a fun movie to watch.
P.S. There is a small tidbit after the credits, so stick around if you want to catch it.
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