The Sorcerer's Apprentice (PG) ★★

Review Date: January 7th, 2011

Jay Baruchel is Hollywood's affable geek du jour, having plied his unique trade recently in the animated blockbuster How to Train Your Dragon and the considerably less successful rom-com She's Out of My League. His gangly frame, twitchy visage, and nasal drone make him perfect for movies in which awkward, self-effacing underdogs triumph against enormous odds to achieve great feats, like saving a Viking tribe from certain destruction or getting laid by a really, really hot blonde chick.

Movies like The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a live-action CGI-fest directed by Jon Turteltaub (the National Treasure films) and inspired by a famous sequence from Fantasia, Walt Disney's groundbreaking collection of animated shorts. Fantasia debuted in 1940, long before Disney subleased its animation work to Pixar and ''Fantasia'' became more commonly known as a popular name among exotic dancers. My, how things have changed.

Baruchel plays Dave, a hapless NYU physics nerd unwittingly cast into the middle of a centuries-long good-versus-evil battle between powerful sorcerers who wield an infinite array of supernatural powers. Representing the good guys is Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), a wide-eyed eccentric whose all-black goth-pimp ensemble draws nary a suspicious glance on the eclectic streets of Manhattan. Dave, it turns out, is no ordinary college student but the Prime Merliner, which sounds like an underwater number divisible by only one and itself, but in actuality is a sort of wizard messiah destined to rid the world from the likes of the sinister Horvath (Alfred Molina) and his imprisoned overlord, Morgana (Alice Krige). That is, if he can take time off from his bumbling courtship of a pretty co-ed (Teresa Palmer) to actually learn the tricks of the sorcerer's trade.

"Disposable" and "formulaic" are terms commonly applied to both of Turteltaub's National Treasure collaborations with Cage, but I submit that those films are at least fun, if ultimately forgettable. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is far less fun and far more forgettable, its formula followed so perfunctorily that it ultimately comes off as an elaborate exercise in corporate cynicism, one unlikely to inspire the string of sequels it so transparently hopes to conjure. Which is a shame, because the film shows intermittent signs of promise, and Cage, despite his distracting perm, is oddly charming as a sort of desperate weirdo. rated this film 2 stars.