Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Movie Review: The Illusionist

I'm a little rusty when it comes to picking out videos to rent. In fact, the first time I walked into a video store since the pact ended, I nearly swooned by the sensory overload. But, for the most part, I chose wisely. The kids enjoyed the movies they picked out and Doc and I failed to watch the movie I rented for us, which was Clerks II.

This past weekend I went in and rented The Illusioninst. The cover looked cool and Paul Giamatti was in it; we love him. And, of course, magici is so hot right now. How could I go wrong with what appeared to be a great cast, even though Edward Norton is such a tool?

My first clue that I had made a poor choice was the litany of producers displayed during the credits. My heart sank after what must have been a dozen separate producers and co-producers names faded in and out of the sepia toned, distressed film. Too many cooks to be sure.

It was set in Germany at the turn of the century. There's forbidden love between two people separated by class. They try to run away together but are caught. He ends up travelling the world and becoming The Illusionist. He returns to Vienna to find his true love betrothed to the crown prince, an asshole on the level of Stanly Kowalski. The CP tries to discredit The Illusionist, but is outwitted at every turn. Meanwhile Paul Giamatti, the chief inspector, pocket dweller of the CP, and an amateur conjurist becomes infatuated with The Illusionist.

Let me tell you what, watching this movie felt exactly like spinning around and around for 30 seconds, sitting down suddenly, and watching paint dry. It was boring. The cinematography was an annoying, amateur imitation of the camera work in Moulin Rouge. The actors were overwraught and saturated their performances with a melancholy, I guess, to bolster the silly script. They were shooting for taut and poignent; they got cloying and ridiculous. At one point, The Illusionist, in a flashforward, was sitting in a chair on stage in front of a totally silent audience. The camera panned the entire theater starting with The Illusionist, soaring over the seats, capturing nearly everyone's face in the audience, which must have been populated by the producers and their families, over the balcony, and back around to the box seats, returning once again to The Illusionists haggard face. Well, as haggard as Ed Norton could pull off, anyway. This scene was so long and so unnecessary, that it became funny. As the camera was making it's slow return trip to the stage, I said to Doc, "This...Is American Idol."

Now, I did not see the end of the movie (I fell asleep). But this is what I guess happened. The Illusionist pulled off his biggest Illusion ever by faking the death of his love and framing the CP for it. And The Illusionist and The Girl ran off to Albania and lived happily ever after, as the Chief Inspector became mayor and thought back fondly, in voice over, of the way The Illusionist was able to make an orange tree grow from a seed in a matter of a minute.... zzzzzzzz.... snore... what? Yeah, it was that boring.

Save your money and rent Freaky Friday instead.


  1. we're just two ships that pass in the night...

    I don't understand us, sometimes. I was going to recommend T.I. to you 'cuz I saw it and enjoyed it a lot-- I thought the quiet of the 360-degree scene was useful. I thought it was as close to a chick flick as I was likely to get and still like it.

    Of course, I wouldn't know Ed Norton if he walked up and peed on my shoes, and I wouldn't know any of the producers if I came 'cross 'em in the Anything Goes room of the local swingers convention, either.

    My lack of judgement therefore made me not only a better person, but for a more enjoyable moviegoing experience.

    So, instead, I'm going to recommend "The Children of Men" when next you find yourself in a viddie store.

  2. I second Big O.
    You should see Children of Men.
    I recommend it.

  3. Of the dueling magician movies, The Prestige was much better. This was Jessica Biel's best role (if we're considering, you know, acting ;) but it was a little eh overall.

    Clerks II is terrific. So is Children of Men.

  4. All right! Now I've got a list to take in with me to the video store tonight. Thanks, guys!

  5. I think Ed Norton is a good actor. But this movie looked real dull. A movie has to kick major fucking ass for me to watch more than 30 minutes without growing bored.

  6. A scathing review - right up my alley! Good job!

    If I have to rent "Freaky Friday" can it be the original with Jodie Foster? I don't like the one with that skank ho.

  7. I agree completely, this movie was crap. I normally like Ed Norton, but when he chooses badly, it's generally really, really bad. God that movie was dull.

    If you're in the mood for magic movies, The Prestige was far superior, even though Jackman's accent changes every other scene. It's got David Bowie in it, what's not to love?

  8. Geo is right, The Prestige was much better plus it's got the added bonus of David Bowie as Tesla. Clerks 2 was pretty funny too. Put 'Notes on a Scandal' on your list too.

  9. My neighbor loaned me Children of Men just the other day. I'll give you a thumbs up/down when I've watched.

  10. I was very disappointed with this — and I could see the "surprise" ending coming down Broadway. Ditto'ing Dale (as usual); any movie with Bowie is worth the view.

  11. I'm sorry, Edward Norton bores the shit out of me. And you could see the big "suprise" ending of this movie coming like a twenty-foot-high freight train for, like, 45 minutes. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ