The Sorcerer's Apprentice would seem to have all the necessary parts for a successful kids' adventure franchise: a nerdy, shy guy who learns he's actually a powerful wizard, people throwing balls of glowing plasma at each other, Nicolas Cage in a fanciful leather trench coat -- the list goes on. But sadly, the movie still falls flat, loaded with way too much convoluted plot and written out way too uncreatively to be a hit with even young audience members.
The story centers on a kid named Dave (Jay Baruchel), whom we first meet when he's ten years old. He's awkward but funny, and he has a thing for a cute, blonde classmate named Becky. One fateful day, Dave strays from the group while on a field trip and winds up in the dusty old magic shop of one Balthazar the Wizard (Nicolas Cage), who, as we learned in the arduous 15-minute backstory intro, has been searching for the past 1,000 years for the successor to his mentor, Merlin. Oh, and also: Balthazar is busy protecting an urn containing the captured essence of his former friend and co-wizard who turned evil, Horvath (Alfred Molina). He's also guarding a Russian doll set that similarly contains the essences of several more evil wizards, with Balthazar's other co-wizard and former love interest Veronica (Monica Bellucci) trapped at the bottom, though she herself has absorbed the essence of another evil wizard, Morgana, into her own body. Anyway, it turns out that Dave is the long-awaited heir to Merlin's powers, but when we fast-forward ten years to see Balthazar visiting Dave as a now 19-year-old college student (who just happens to have enrolled at the same school as his long-lost Becky), all hell breaks loose as Horvath escapes and sets his sights on freeing Morgana so he can raise an army of the dead to enslave humankind. Additionally, Dave is somewhat dubious about his new occupation.
If that was all a little hard to follow, imagine what it's like watching the movie. There's too much overly complex plot for the largely boring characters to support, and despite what could be an interesting explanation of magic (namely, that it's just the power of the human brain to operate at full capacity) and a number of entertaining tricks (trapping people inside mirrors, combining spells with the use of a Tesla coil, etc.), the film just doesn't hold one's attention. In the end, the closest The Sorcerer's Apprentice comes to real magic is Nic Cage staring intensely while wearing an oxhide duster -- which is better than nothing, but not enough to save the film.