Wizard of Blahs

Disney's latest CGI fest is far from magical

LAST SUMMER'S SUPER-AGENT guinea-pig adventure G-Force was an OK convergence between the mighty Disney studio and attention-deficit-action-movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer. This summer's Disney blockbuster, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, is another Bruckheimer collaboration, but it's not nearly as fun.

Conceived to make your eyeballs feel like they're bouncing through a pinball machine for 90 minutes, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a swollen special-effects blast that expands a classic segment from 1940's Fantasia to feature length. You remember Mickey and the marching brooms, right? Only here it's live action, with director Jon Turteltaub working from Michael Bay's gaudy playbook.

An overstuffed prologue tells us that ever since the eighth century, good-guy wizard Balthazar (Nicolas Cage, practically a Disney contract player these days), a disciple of Merlin the Magician, has been looking for a chosen one to carry on the fight against an evil sorceress (who's imprisoned in a Phantom Zone or something). In modern-day New York, Balthazar recruits nebbish physics major Dave (Jay Baruchel) for the job.

Balthazar mentors clumsy Dave in such magical-martial arts as levitation, lighting fires, and hurling plasma balls. And there's not a moment to lose, since warlock Horvath (Alfred Molina) is on the attack, threatening to bring on a zombie armageddon.

The script — by five credited writers — has a fleetingly ambitious notion that magic and science are the same, but anything deeper than that goes poof in the plot's careening from one wizard duel to the next. Aside from a sequence that remakes the cartoon's cleanup spell gone wrong, the takeoff trends closer to The Matrix than Mickey Mouse.

An obscenity-free script and Molina's hearty villainy are the only tangible Magic Kingdom touches in The Sorcerer's Apprentice -- that and the awesome CGI, which brings to life the Chrysler Building's gargoyle filigree and the famous sculpted bull on Wall Street. Visually impressive? Sure. Magical? Not very.

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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Opens Wednesday areawide

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