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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage stars in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."
By the time viewers sit through the two flashbacks—one set in the Middle Ages, the other a mere 10 years ago—that are required to get "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Disney) rolling, they will likely have a sense that director Jon Turteltaub's generally inoffensive but routine fantasy adventure is on track to do more lumbering than levitating.

And so, alas, it turns out, as the special effects-driven proceedings that follow fall well short of movie magic.

The second of the film's prologues introduces us to seemingly ordinary New York City school kid Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry). When Dave accidentally crosses paths with mysterious merchant Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage)—owner of a store called the Arcana Cabana—our diminutive hero gets caught up on the back story that was explained for us in the opening scene; to wit, Balthazar is, in fact, a wizard and a former pupil of the legendary medieval wonderworker Merlin.

For centuries Balthazar has been searching for the prophesied heir to his old mentor's powers while also keeping Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina)—another of Merlin's proteges who went over to the dark side—safely cooped up in a Russian-style nesting doll. Dave, it need hardly be said, turns out to be the "prime Merlinian" Balthazar has been seeking.

Flash-forward to the present to find that Dave (now played by Jay Baruchel) has grown into a 20-year-old New York University student and physics geek who is convinced that his boyhood encounter with Balthazar was simply a hallucination. His unremarkable daily affairs are interrupted, however, when the newly freed Maxim comes calling, followed in short order by Balthazar.

Once Dave accepts his destiny, most of the remaining screen time is consumed by his efforts, under Balthazar's tutelage, to master the powers he has inherited—bring on the computer-generated "plasma bolts"—a task from which he's constantly distracted by his love for comely fellow NYUer Becky Barnes (Teresa Palmer), whom he started pursuing, as we witnessed early on, during their time together in the fifth grade.

While happily free of vulgar language, the script—credited to three screenwriters (Matt Lopez, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard) working from a story with as many authors (Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Lopez)—has the feel of an adventure by committee.

But, besides unbloody battle scenes too intense for tots and a passing invitation from a college friend of Dave's to join him in a drinking spree, the only material that might give pause to some parents is a bit of potty humor, as when we encounter a bulldog with gastric difficulties or follow Dave into a men's room where he expresses audible relief while using a urinal.

Like the rest of the magical rigmarole on display, the ability to raise old comrades from the dead, attributed to Merlin's nemesis, Morgana (Alice Krige), need not be taken seriously, nor need the inclusion of a Franciscan friar in the ranks of these deceased practitioners of the black arts necessarily elevate Catholic hackles.

The latter detail merely permits the camera to survey a group of unburied skeletons such as can be seen in the Capuchin crypt of Rome's Church of the Immaculate Conception, a long-standing—albeit somewhat macabre—tourist attraction.

The film contains extensive stylized violence and brief scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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