Named for the last good outing by Walt Disney's rodent mascot, this Bruckheimer-produced Apprentice pays homage to Mickey's dancing mops but draws more from modern road-tested blockbuster elements: Spidey's nerd-turned-superhero wish fulfillment and Harry Potter's boy wizardry. Nicolas Cage plays Balthazar Blake, a 1,300-year-old understudy of Merlin who finds his long-sought Chosen One in the unlikely form of a skinny NYU physics student, Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), who'll have to cram magic lessons so as to help Balthazar stop a cabal of apocalyptic sorcerers, all while courting a vanilla-indie college-radio DJ (Teresa Palmer). In Apprentice's prologue, a preteen Dave draws King Kong in marker on his school bus window so that it lines up to superimpose on the passing Empire State Building. This encapsulates the movie's "Presto!" playfulness with effects ("It's been a while since I've seen the Hungarian mirror trick...") and the free way it has with New York City: Dave's massive Tesla coils fill his dungeon/lab, an abandoned subway turnabout; a Chinatown New Year's dragon, the Wall Street bull, and the stainless-steel eagles from the Chrysler Building all come to life. Cage will likely not earn a second Oscar here, but he and director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) make leftovers into fine PG malarkey with their hokey naiveté and prankish hocus-pocus.
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