Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: The Illusionist

Grade: C+

A French magician is one of the last of a dying breed of stage entertainer. With the emergence of pop music and rock stars, not many people are heading to the theater anymore to see him perform his tricks. Becoming almost desperate, he begins to accept increasingly odd assignments at fringe theaters, garden parties and even at bars. At one point, he meets a young girl who instantly becomes a big fan of his. When he leaves, she decides to tag along. The two form a bond with one another and he decides to take care of her. They move into a small apartment in Edinburgh, Scotland in a building full of interesting characters. There, the magician begins to help the girl out and he changes her life forever.

The Illusionist is not the movie from 2006 with Edward Norton, just gonna get that out of the way now. It is an animated movie from France and French is the best way to describe it, but I’ll get to that later. It is up for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year and I can sort of see why. The animation is absolutely spectacular, unlike anything I’ve seen in years. It is very obvious that this was animated the old fashioned way, and by that I mean that every frame is hand drawn. The movie is extremely artistic and beautiful and for these reasons, is well worth watching.

However, as I said before the best way I can think to describe this movie is very French. It is an odd little movie, to start there is virtually no dialogue. You will hear the characters murmuring (almost as though it’s a Sims game), but there is no distinguishable words to be heard. On top of that the character of the Illusionist is an almost tragic one. All he knows is magic and he is being pushed out of that world be new and more exciting forms of entertainment. As a warning, despite its PG rating, this movie isn’t the most kid friendly movie at times. There is lots of smoking and drinking and at one point you see a character ready to kill himself. The ending is rather depressing as well. But that’s not to say that it’s all bad, it has its shining moments and plenty of laughs, most of which come from a drunk Scotsman.

The Illusionist is a movie well worth checking out, if for nothing else the fantastic form of animation it uses. I do believe that the main reason that this movie was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars is because of the old fashioned and stylistic form animation not seen in movies anymore. It is funny at times, heartwarming at others and rather somber and depressing the rest. Again, while nothing bad necessarily happens, I don’t think many children will enjoy this movie.

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