Illusionist, The (Blu-ray Review)1 May, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff
Box Office $2.2 million
Rated ‘PG’ for thematic elements and smoking.
Set in 1959, The Illusionist takes viewers back to a time when animation and storytelling were simpler.
A French magician is forced to travel further away to support himself. Tatischeff and his mischievous rabbit bounce from city to city, eventually landing in Edinburgh, Scotland.
There, the illusionist takes fast to a poor orphan girl who is convinced his magic is real. He quickly begins to care for her as a daughter, and she as if he were her father. The relationship seems healthy for the illusionist, who is estranged from his family and has no companions, aside from the belligerently drunk Scotsman who occasionally shows up, only to make a fool of himself.
The lavish clothing Alice desires the illusionist lovingly provides. Soon enough, Tatischeff’s audiences and pay become sparse, forcing him to take on various odd jobs. The same applies for the other vaudevillian rejects — a trio of acrobats, a mime and a ventriloquist — who also reside in the dilapidated boarding house.
Just as magicians are becoming obsolete, rock ‘n’ roll is on the rise. Billy Boy and the Britoons — a band with a Beatles-sized following led by an eccentric, hips-swiveling Mick Jagger-esque front man — steal the illusionist’s thunder, providing many laughs along the way.
As expected, Tatischeff and Alice grow apart, as she matures into a young lady and finds romance. He comes to the somber conclusion that he must let Alice go.
At a time when CGI and 3D are burgeoning, director Sylvain Chomet presents a refreshing reversion back to 2D, hand-drawn animation, which is especially fitting for the film’s theme of old giving way to new.
The Illusionist features very little dialogue, in typical Chomet fashion, so the score and imagery are relied upon to evoke emotion. This, of course, adds to the film’s charm.