Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The

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Not recommended under 10, PG to 13 (Violence; scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The
  • a review of Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 September 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 10-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy violence and threatening scenes
Length: 109 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Sorcerers Apprentice opens in 740 A.D. with a battle between Merlin the wizard and the sorceress Morgana (Alice Krige). Morgana wants to steal Merlin’s Great Book of Spells. We hear that Merlin had three apprentices Balthazar Blank (Nicholas Cage), Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci), and that through Horvath’s betrayal Morgana was able to defeat Merlin. Before Morgana is able to escape with Merlin’s Great Book, Balthazar and Veronica arrive and do battle with Morgana and Horvath. During the fight Veronica overpowers Morgana by sucking her soul into her own body, but Morgana fights back trying to kill Veronica from the inside out. To save Veronica’s life, Balthazar imprisons both Veronica and Morgana in a wooden nesting doll, a magical prison called the “Grimhold”. Before dying Merlin hands Balthazar a tiny metal dragon telling Balthazar that he is to use the dragon to find the Prime Merlinian, Merlin’s successor and the only one who can defeat Morgana.    

The film cuts to the year 2000 where ten-year-old Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) accidentally stumbles into an antique shop where he encounters Balthazar, who has not aged a day. Sensing something different about Dave, Balthazar place the metal dragon on Dave’s hand and the dragon immediately animated wraps itself around Dave’s finger. Dave is the Prime Merlinian! While Balthazar is out of the room for a few minutes, Dave finds the Gimhold and accidentally releases Horvath. Unable to defeat Horvath, Balthazar tells Dave to take the Gimhold and run, then imprisons both himself and Horvath in a magical urn for ten years.

The film cuts to the year 2010, where Dave (Jay Baruchel) is now a physics nerd at NYU where he conducts experiments in electromagnetism. Dave has all but forgotten his encounter with Balthazar, and is having a relationship with Becky (Teresa Palmer). However ten years have passed, and both Horvath and Balthazar escape from the urn and go in search of Dave and the Grimhold.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The supernatural; immortality; relationships; betrayal

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice contains frequent intense fantasy violence. Examples include:

  • During a fight between Merlin and Morgana, Morgana tries to incinerate Merlin with a magical wall of flames. Merlin holds a sword to Morgana’s throat and Morgana stabs Merlin in the stomach with a sword
  • A sorceress uses magic to transform Morgana into vapour which the sorceress then sucks into her mouth. The sorceress then collapses on the floor and turns to dust.
  • We see a fight between Balthazar and Horvath with Balthazar using his power to pin Horvath against the ceiling. The pair push shove and wrestle with one another with the power generated by both men exploding throwing the two men across a room. One man uses his powers to hurl a bookcase at the other and one uses his powers to magically control a sword that tries to stab the other. They use their magical powers to hurl each other around the room and throw balls of lightning at each other causing the area around them to become engulfed in flames following which the two men turn to sand and are sucked into a magical urn. 
  • Balthazar uses magic to freeze Horvath to railway tracks, Horvath just managing to thaw out before being run over by a train.
  • Horvath opens his coat to reveal numerous knives lining the inside. Horvath uses his magical powers to propel a number of knives through the air. They smash through the windscreen of a car and it is implied that they kill the driver.
  • A Chinese sorcerer hurls dozens of needles at Balthazar  then transforms a Chinese parade dragon into a real fire-breathing dragon that breaths fire at people as they scream and run away. The dragon crashes its way through an apartment building while chasing after Dave. Dave uses his powers and hurls balls of lightening at he dragon with the dragon exploding in flames and falling from a building to land on top of a man.
  • A man pulls a knife and robs Becky. Dave run after the robber and uses his powers to knock the man to the ground with a flying flaming rubbish bin.
  • Horvath holds his cane against Becky’s neck and threatens to cut her up and feed her to a cat.
  • An evil sorcerer uses his powers to hurl Balthazar against a giant fan, the wires of the fans’ grill coming to life and wrapping themselves around Balthazar’s arms and trapping him. Balthazar frees himself and uses a ball of lightening to hurl his attacker across the room.
  • Horvath uses his powers to hurl a number of knives at Balthazar but Dave in turn uses his own powers to stop the knives centimetres from Balthazar’s face.   
  • On two occasions, Horvath uses what he called a “Parasite Spell” to suck to powers out of other sorcerers, one of whom was a young girl. Horvath touches his victim’s face which appears to shrivel as the person is drained of power.   
  • In the final showdown, Balthazar and Horvath use their powers to hurl one another around a city park and throw lightening balls at each other. Morgana hurls lightening at both Balthazar and Veronica, knocking them unconscious. Dave fires bolts of lightning at Morgana’s ghost-like image and eventually turns Morgana to ash which blows away in the wind.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight. Many of them involve transformations and inanimate figures coming alive. Examples include:

  • Horvath and Balthazar erupt from a giant urn as clouds of sand and transform into men.
  • Morgana is transformed to vapour and sucked up by Veronica, who in turn transforms into dust.
  • Skulls and bones bound in stone become animated and move about.
  • When a small silver dragon is placed in Dave’s hand it becomes animated and wraps its arms, legs and wings around Dave’s finger.
  • A giant metal eagle and a giant bronze bull come to life.  
  • When Dave drops a wooden nesting doll, it breaks open with thousands of black cockroach-like insects pouring out and transforming into a man.
  • A pack of snarling wolves chase Dave who trips and stumbles as he runs away.
  • A Chinese parade dragon is transformed into a real dragon. The torsos of the performers inside the street dragon are transformed into dragon intestines while their legs transform into the legs of a dragon which then breathes fire at people.
  • Dave animates a number of mops and buckets to clean up his basement, but the mops go berserk and turn on Dave.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the violent and scary scenes described above

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the violent and scary scenes described above

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • In reference to dating Becky, we hear Dave say “I blew my shot at this girl ten years ago.”
  • Dave’s roommate encourages Dave to find a girlfriend, suggesting he spend time with some drunk university girls.
  • To put Becky off Dave, Balthazar tells her that he has to go and pick up Dave’s “anti-itch" cream.
  • We hear Becky say “I want to come with you, you’re sexy.”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Dave is seen from behind urinating in a toilet.
  • Some kissing

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A policeman says a group of people must have imagined seeing a dragon due to them “hitting the sake pretty hard.”
  • Dave’s roommate drinks wine with his girlfriend.

Coarse language

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice contains occasional putdowns and brief mild coarse language. Examples include:

  • Freak; shut up; crazy; sappy; nerd; moron; stupid; damn; and hell. 

In a nutshell

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, partially based on scenes in the Disney classic Fantasia, is a fantasy action drama that targets older children and early adolescents (ten to fifteen years). The film is more than capable of entertaining its targeted audience, but parents are warned that the film has many scenes which are likely to disturb younger children.   

The main messages from this movie are:

  • believing in yourself is the secret to success.
  • betrayal destroys the one betraying as well as those being betrayed.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • honesty
  • faithfulness
  • selflessness

Which doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining, because it certainly is. (How could it not be, given how engineered the whole thing feels?) As in Spider-Man 2, Molina proves brilliant at villainy, balancing smart and sinister at the same time. And Baruchel isn't your average hero, which is a good thing: He’s one of a few elements in the movie that has a refreshing edge.

One section that does feel inspired? The mops-and-buckets-go-awry sequence inspired by Fantasia, the classic animated feature to which The Sorcerer's Apprentice owes some debt of gratitude. For a moment there, the movie evokes the whimsy and mayhem it could have more wholeheartedly embraced. As the popcorn fare it is now, it’s loads of fun -- but it could have been genius.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

In order to save Becky’s life Dave hands over the Grimhold to Horvath knowing that it could destroy the world. Was Dave right to risk the entire world in order to save Becky, or should Becky have been sacrificed in order to save the lives of countless others?