The Illusionist (2006)

(In theaters, September 2006) On paper, this film can’t miss: turn-of-the-nineteenth century magicians, Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biehl, etc. The trailer looked fabulous and yet… the film fails to elicit any enthusiasm. Why? Well, for starters, it’s a caper film where -even from the onset- it’s clear that nothing is quite what it seems. Alas, it’s far too easy to guess a good chunk of the ending before it happens, and the film doesn’t give you much on top of that to keep your mind occupied. Worse: in a film about stage magic, it would be reasonable to expect actual stage magic and not a reliance on CGI. But The Illusionist lacks the guts to either sustain or explain its lesser illusions. As a result, the film almost announces itself as untrustworthy from the first few scenes, and that eventually takes its toll. Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti are fine in their respective role, but they can’t transcend the screenplay. Much to my dismay, I realized that I found Jessica Biehl less attractive as the film went on, which bodes nothing good at all. In the end, she proves to be as disappointing at The Illusionist as a whole: a good film that could have been a lot better.

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