Imagine this: a kid’s movie that isn’t based on an old TV show, cartoon, video game or line of toys. The movie contains no potty jokes and only one instance of someone being hit in the groin. It also celebrates friendship, loyalty and knowledge as a way to fight evil people who yell a lot. The movie’s makers so desperately want you and your family to like it that you’re uncomfortable sitting in front of the screen. You irrationally fear that your indifference could insult the movie itself and cause it to cry.

It’s shame that “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is so excruciating because it’s so full of good intentions. Criticizing it can make you feel like you just ran over a Salvation Army Santa Claus after starting a four-alarm fire at the local Toys R Us.

A game but miscast Nicolas Cage is Balthazar, an ancient sorcerer who’s been battling the disciples of the witch Morgana (as in Morgana from the King Arthur legends) for more than 1,000 years, a job that’s unusually secure in these times despite being a real bummer. Balthazar’s main nemesis is Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), another sorcerer who dresses like an Edwardian dandy and is all business when it comes to being evil. As for Balthazar, someone decided this good guy had to be a hip sorcerer, so he has a lush, wavy head of hair and a long coat, a getup that makes him look like a Goth vampire geek who got lost on his way to Comic Con.

Young nerd Dave (Jay Baruchel) is drafted into the war seemingly by chance before it’s revealed he’s the true successor to the wizard Merlin because, for some reason, the fantasy genre usually demands the hero be predestined for greatness. No average kids, please — they’re a bunch of losers.

Maxim is imprisoned in an urn before he’s accidentally released by young Dave and recaptured by Balthazar. Years later Maxim is loose again and he wants to bring forth all of Morgana’s nasty acolytes and eventually Morgana herself (Alice Krige).

Balthazar teaches Dave the best way to fight evil is conjuring a big, blue ball of magic fire-plasma-whatever and hurl it at your foe. Balthazar and Dave dispatch Morgana’s minions, including a cheesy, Criss Angel-type magician who somehow manages to be less ridiculous than the real Criss Angel.

The story builds to big magic fight in New York’s Bowling Green Park that destroys numerous cars yet mysteriously attracts no police or firefighters. But first, there’s a romantic interlude with Dave and his dream girl Becky, a segment that likely exists to give parents a chance to take kids to the restroom. Dave saves the day thanks to his skill in science and magic. Learning is good, it’s cool to be a nerd and everything comes out all right.

Those are good lessons to teach children — lessons that may gird them for the cruelties of junior high and high school, where jocks and cheerleaders still occupy the top social tier and the smart, eccentric kids are banished to the darker corners of the lunchroom. It may now be cool to be a nerd, but in some places things never change.