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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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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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