The Illusionist Movie Review
An aging French illusionist finds his prospects dwindling as rock bands and electronics go mainstream in the Oscar-nominated French animated film L'illusionniste - known to us non-Frenchmen as The Illusionist. The movie is an alluring and richly animated drama-comedy, but its low key storytelling fails to hold attention the way the filmmaker's last production, the incredible Triplets of Belleville, did.
The Illusionist follows a sad and frustrated man who finds happiness when he meets young Alice, who is fascinated by his trickery and willingness to buy her pretty things. Strapped for cash, the illusionist struggles to make ends meet - but is determined to keep Alice happy nonetheless.
The movie looks great, with beautiful scenery and little, off-the-wall details that display the range of the filmmakers' imagination. With very little dialogue (though it's in French, it doesn't have subtitles), The Illusionist is like a silent film in many ways, relying on character mannerisms and visuals to express emotions and set tone.
As neat as it is, there's not much of a hook when it comes to the actual story. I never related to either of the characters and didn't fully understand what drew them to one another; Alice is vain and innocently uses the illusionist to get the things she wants, while it's unclear what the illusionist wants in return. A daughter? A sexual partner?
Whereas The Triplets of Belleville has incredible energy, The Illusionist is so subdued in tone that after a while it becomes dull. The movie would have worked better as an extended short than as a full-length picture; as well done as it is, there isn't much reward to the audience for watching it.
The Illusionist is better viewed from a film study perspective than as a crowd-pleasing animated movie. It's good but not great, beautiful to watch but not all that entertaining.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.