Remember those notes you used to pass in grade school, asking a girl to put a check-mark in the box next to ‘friend’ or ‘girlfriend’, so you knew how she felt about you?

Well, the free world has been saved by a lot of things over the years, but I don’t recall it ever owing its salvation to one of those notes.

Until now.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice opens with a lengthy narration tracing the history of wizards back more than 1,000 years. Merlin, as it happens, had three students: Balthazar (Cage), Veronica (Monica Bellucci), and Horvath (Alfred Molina). As is so often the case, there was a bad apple (Horvath) who teamed up with an even worse apple, Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige). Reeeally long story short (or maybe not), Veronica and Morgana end up locked together in one of those stacking doll things, and a millennium later, Balthazar is looking for the heir to Merlin’s power who can free his true love Veronica and make sure Morgana doesn’t unleash evil on the world.

Turns out that Dave (Jay Baruchel) a twenty-year-old physics geek from NYU is said heir, who, on a school field trip ten years earlier, passed the aforementioned grade school note to cutie-pie Becky, but before he could get a look at her response, the note blew away, so Dave chased it a couple blocks until it came to rest at the doorstep of Balthazar’s magic shop, and then Balthazar placed a dragon ring on Dave’s finger and immediately realized Dave was the chosen one, but before he could save the world, Dave dropped the Veronica/Morgana doll thing on the floor (which released Horvath), and then Balthazar and Horvath fought, and then they ended up locked together in an urn, and then ten years later, they got out and were still fighting.

And that, dear friends, is just the set-up for the movie.

It’s a shame that the story is so convoluted (no less than five people are credited with having a hand in the script), because once you get past that heckuva intro, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a pretty slick action movie. Directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure I & II) and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it’s full of nifty special effects, more than a few pulse-quickening fight scenes, and some pretty decent chemistry between Cage and Baruchel.

The two actors don’t stray far from their usual characters– Baruchel with his nerdy, Christian Slater-ish delivery and Cage alternating between his pained expression and his ‘I only look crazy’ demeanor, but together the two of them make it work. And while the always-great Molina sinks his teeth into the role of Horvath (and comes this close to walking away with the movie a few times), Bellucci is vastly under-used in her role, only getting a chance to shine near the end.

Of course, being a Disney movie, there’s also a really fun homage to Uncle Walt’s famous scene from Fantasia when Mickey gets a little carried away with the sorcery and unleashes and army of mops.

The movie is aimed squarely at the 10-ish to 15-ish male population (younger crowds might be a bit shaken by some of the fights and other tense moments). If you don’t fall in that demographic, tread lightly, but by and large The Sorcerer’s Apprentice hits more than it misses.

3/5 stars