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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Movie Review: Not enough magic in ‘The Illusionist’

    Movie Review: Not enough magic in The Illusionist

    This ain’t your average birthday party magician. “”The Illusionist”” hopes to mess with your head with its special effects, but sadly that’s pretty much all it’s got going for it.

    A period piece set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, the movie features a young magician who falls in love with the duchess of his town.

    However, since she’s way out of his social stratosphere, her family tears apart the two young lovers. Brokenhearted, the young Eisenheim (Edward Norton) sets off on a journey to all sorts of exotic locales to learn about magic and mystery.

    Flash forwarding a couple of years, an older Eisenheim returns to Vienna to perform his magic tricks on the stage. The prince of Vienna (Rufus Sewell) is in the audience of one of his shows and offers up his lady friend, the Duchess Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), to be his assistant.

    Eisenheim recognizes her as his childhood love and tries to trick his way back into her heart again. However, the prince isn’t about to let her go so easily, and he plans to get to the bottom of all of Eisenheim’s so called “”mysteries”” with his friend Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), all while planning to stage a coup to take over the empire. It’s all in the day’s work of an evil prince.


    ‘The Illusionist’
    110 minutes
    Yari Film Group

    The most dazzling parts of “”The Illusionist”” are, not surprisingly, the illusions. The magic tricks are not just the average “”pick-a-card-any-card”” or “”making-a-handkerchief-disappear”” parlor tricks we’re used to. Instead, Eisenheim causes objects to slow down through time and makes an orange seed grow rapidly into an orange tree.

    Some of the fun is taken out of it because we know that the tricks are all computer-generated imagery, but it’s fun to imagine how astonishing it would be from his audience’s view in the early 1900s.

    As much as I want to dislike Jessica Biel for her horrible past roles, unexpectedly enough, the movie falters when her character is no longer a part of the action.

    Once Eisenheim is no longer trying to win Sophie back and the prince isn’t trying to keep Eisenheim from her, there’s not really much of a plot. The life of the film drains out. The special effects that dazzled in the first half disappear because Eisenheim is no longer interested in entertaining and would rather be moody, the Chief Inspector has no one to arrest because he can’t pin any real crimes on anyone and the prince, like most royalty of that time, does absolutely nothing anyway. “”The Illusionist”” tries in vain to drag itself out for another hour or so, but it really suffers from a mid-life crisis of where, if anywhere, it can go from there.

    The lesson that “”The Illusionist”” really needs to learn from is not anything magic-related, but the lesson that just because it’s a period piece doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good. Corsets can’t compensate for everything.

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