Saturday, July 17, 2010

the sorcerer's apprentice (turteltaub, 2010)

A highly competent blockbuster with visual lines as clean and clear as the moral ones - if I am permitted to bestow that upon Jon Turteltaub's film as a genuine and heartfelt compliment as opposed to a backhanded one, then that's what I'd like to do. (David Bordwell has also been mighty kind to Turteltaub, in the context of the first National Treasure movie.) Full of visual effects unexpected (if a parade dragon is going to turn into a real one, who's to say the men operating it aren't going to take notice?) and expected (yes, the title character reprises Mickey's miscalculated attempt to use magick to avoid chores), this is downright classical compared to the slovenly, wearisome fare that passes for Hollywood's vanguard in the all-digital/all-dimensional age.

Set firmly in a cast of "with the program" thespians (Nicolas Cage [for once], Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer), the real engine that drives Apprentice's specialness is Jay Baruchel, the 2010 moment's emblem of dweeb and twitch (earlier this year he starred in a romantic comedy called Holy Shit I Can't Believe This Hot Chick is Letting Me Fuck Her Oh My God, or something). Rising to the front of that particular trade since he stole a handful of scenes in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, Baruchel is actually a few degrees less stable than the picture requires - but on close examination I decided his line readings and general behavior slyly and pleasingly calculated. (Again, a backhanded-sounding compliment that I am trying to submit as "on the level.") A real professional, confident as anybody else in the lineup, he's a special effect in and of himself, and provides much-needed counterbalance to the expensive, studio precision that structures the picture around him.

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