Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Movie Review – The Illusionist: Prepare to be amazed!

By Perry Chen, Movie Review Columnist

Do you believe in magic? Do you remember how you felt when you saw a magic trick for the first time? Were you astounded? Have you ever wondered what a magician’s life is really like? That is the story behind The Illusionist, an excitingly animated feature film by French animation director Sylvain Chomet, about the disappearing art of amusement, was recently nominated for an Oscar.


You can view The Illusionist website with a full animated preview at: http://www.sonyclassics.com/theillusionist/


The main character, an old, curious, skillful, and good-natured magician, is based on Jacques Tati, the screenwriter, and also famous actor, comedian, director, and mime. With many more successful enterprises coming out in the late 1950’s, such as Rock musicians and dancers, the magician and many other old entertainers, like puppeteers and clowns, are slowly being pushed to the brink of extinction, as they were fighting a losing battle.


Searching for an audience for his profession, the magician meets Alice, a charming maid, who looks as if she is barely a teenager, working at a hotel. When he performs a magic trick for her, she believes that he can create anything out of nothing. After following him to Edinburgh in Scotland though, she gets vainer, feeding off the magician’s money to satisfy her needs. The poor magician has to toil hard over second jobs as a painter, a clothing shop promoter, and even as a car washer (which he got fired in all of them), to buy expensive gifts for the girl, since he has such fatherly love for her and does not want to disappoint her. Alice doesn’t seem to understand that he cannot make something from nothing in real life. The magician and Alice slowly drift apart, fueled by her vanity and newfound love as she grows older.


The Magician has a companion and main attraction to a younger audience, a very mischievous white rabbit who enjoys biting people who put their hand too close to his cage. The rabbit always struggles furiously when the magician stuffs him into his top hat. He acts very “un-rabbit like,” as if he is rabid (rabid rabbit!). The magician is always scrambling after the rabbit as he escapes after each show! He adds a lot of humor to the film, making it more light-hearted. The kids will love the rabbit!


I loved this magical film and gave it 4.5 star fish. It is “Perrific!” The Illusionist is gorgeously animated, especially the illuminated night streets of Edinburg, and the beautiful scenes in nature, in particular, a scene of a duck flapping off from a lake when a train passes by. Many other scenes are stunning, and the story is enchanting.


The magician’s magic looks so real. I also recommend you see the film Mon Oncle, starring Tati, a film that really helped enrich my understanding about Tati. It was recommended by Scott Marks, another San Diego film critic featured on KPBS Film Club and a good friend of ours. Mon Oncle incorporated a lot of physical comedy. After watching this film, you can really see all the similarities between Tati in Mon Oncle and the magician in The Illusionist, such as the fact that they are both silent types, they are curious and have the spirit of professionals, but the hearts of children, they have a stiff legged walk, and their pants are too short. There is actually a scene in The Illusionist where the magician walks into a theater and Mon Oncle is playing inside. The music was delightful and light-hearted. It was very similar to the music in Mon Oncle. Both films have little dialogue.


The story has a lot of humor in it. Besides the hilarious scenes of the rabbit, another funny scene is one with the lead singers of The Britoons, an early rock and roll band. My mom and I were overcome with laughter, when the lead musician (Billy) squirms on the floor of the stage, in front of hysterical, screaming fans, refusing to leave the stage when his time is up, forcing the eager magician following him to wait for hours.


I actually had a variation for a critical scene in the film, which my mom actually liked better. In that scene, the magician is on a train and sees a little girl looking for a pencil she was using for a drawing. He finds her very short pencil and gives it back to her. In my variation, he does a magic trick in which he takes his own pencil, which is longer and gives it to her, so when she grabs her short pencil she gets a long one! I thought this would give the film more magic and power.


This film is a bit spiritual and I think adults will probably appreciate it more than kids. But I want to challenge children to watch it and discuss it with their parents, as The Illusionist is among the three Oscar-nominated animation features this year and included in our “Amazing Kids Perrific Oscar Picks” contest. Kids can learn a lot from this film which is different from most other animation films.


Today, the art of magic is flourishing. Many people create astounding tricks, and even children are in the magic business. If you don’t believe me, watch the film Make Believe, a moving documentary about a group of talented young magicians going for an annual international magic competition in the magic industry. My mom and I saw it at the Los Angeles Film Festival last year and met the filmmakers and star magicians in the film. I am glad magic is alive and well nowadays!
The Illusionist is about fatherly love, loss, and the disappearing art of amusement. Magicians may not exist, but magic definitely does.
Copyright 2011 by Perry S. Chen

Perry Chen is a 10-year-old film & entertainment critic, artist, and animator. He is the resident film critic for Amazing Kids and also writes for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune and San Diego Entertainer. He has been featured on CBS, NPR, Variety, and The Young Icons TV show. His website: http://www.perryspreviews.com.