Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) has searched 1000 years for the heir "Prime Merlinean" (worst name ever) to take master Merlin's ring. Fantasia was the inspiration and guideline in modern New York City setting. Except for an homage to the original dancing mop scene, the core plot is simple. Shy reluctant teen nerd Dave (Jay Baruchel) gets power, pretty girl Becky (Teresa Palmer), and saves the world with science. Trailer.
Back story is complicated, well told. Veronica (Monica Bellucci), Balthazar's first love and fellow student absorbed evil Morgana (Alice Krige) inside herself, to save mankind from destruction. She was imprisoned in a Russian-layered Grimhold doll. Inside the next layer, Balthazar had trapped third student Horvath (Alfred Molina - Sheikh Amar, Prince of Persia), also infatuated with Veronica, Merlin's killer. When ten, Dave accidentally freed Horvath, but Balthazar kept them inside a Chinese jar ten-year trap.
Special effects are more real than computerized, real flaming fingers and fighting in fire, overall blazing. The action is so fast and big, I only saw humor and slapstick after. Humor is low-level "No time to pee? .. I can hold it" before first lesson. Balthazar's shaggy hair scruffy look says he spends all his effort on work. However, emphasis on out-of-place "pointy-toe" or "old-man" leather shoes is silly. Electricity-proof rubber soles on sturdy boots suitable for climbing would be more useful.
I have to rate high because zap-zing smash-crash whoosh-vroom fights from the start, effects and music are 5*. The fires are real. But I do not like, sympathize, or identify with the goof's whiny localized New York accent (much bettter toned down for Viking lad Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon film and Dragon Riders of Berk cartoons) and give-up skepticism (the script or the acting?). Movie not better soundless, however, because of big bam-boom flame-scream percussion-brass crescendos.
Voices have incredible power. The deep vibrato of Sean Connery shivers me inside out. Although Harry Potter is a helpless orphan, he sounds strong, loyal; we will befriend and stand with him to the end. This twerp has a nasal scratch-on-blackboard tone and hang-back attitude that grates. Even Cage talks distinctively through his nose. Combo turns me off and away.
I liked the ten-year old actor better. Until love interest 20-year old Becky (Teresa Palmer) compliments his childhood bus trip window drawing, King Kong lining up atop the Empire State Building, I had no idea. Merlin's third apprentice, villain Maxim, takes apprentice and releases Salem witch only to steal their power for the final break-out.
Big electric climax. Two big tear-jerker moments: when Dave finally finds his power
and when Morganna stops his mentor's heart, dead. Victoria is free and herself, Morganna dissolved, but Balthazar lies cooling.
Of course Dave knows electricity, and modern machines shock hearts into starting again. He gets his girl too. Double reunion for double happy ending.