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Movie Review: The Illusionist

Alternate Title: Do You Believe in Magic?

Story: Yes indeed I do. Magic is fun. And this movie, besides being romantic, beautifully filmed and well acted - is just plain fun.

It is around 1900 in Vienna. The opening shot reveals a man deep in concentration, wearing shirtsleeves, sitting on a bare stage. The full house sits in quiet awe while surrounded by what seems like the entire Viennese police force. Through a narrator (I usually do not like narrators, but it works in this film) we see how we got to this tense point.

Like a magician I will not tell you much about the plot because it would ruin the magic. I will say it involves the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a woman who does not love him, a murder, reacquainted childhood sweethearts, abuse of power, police investigations and magic. Suffice it to say that the film is enthralling, mysterious and well, quite magical.

Magic depends on misdirection but writer and director Neil Burger (Interview With An Assassin) delivers terrific direction. The film is based on a short story by Steven Millhauser (Eisnheim the Illusionist).

Give your self a summer treat and check out this fine film. I guarantee a few smiles will cross your face. Oh yes, and pay attention please.

Acting: Edward Norton does not disappoint. He is one fine actor. Paul Giammatti always looks like he is the cast member who is having the best time. He was wonderful as the police inspector. I only know Jessica Biel's face from seeing her at my supermarket checkout stand but she did a fine job as the romantic interest. Rufus Sewell relished his role as the crown prince.

Predilection: My father was an amateur magician and my Cousin Steve has performed many times at the Magic Castle in LA. You could say I have the slight of hands in my genes.

Critters: A frog, two butterflies and horse. Sorry, there were no rabbits coming out of hats.

Food: If there was any food it disappeared before I noticed it.

Visual Art: The magic was pretty exciting to watch.

Theater Audience: A number of entertained the rater goers.

Weather: Darkness helps with magic.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I did not drift. I did not want to miss a trick.

Predictability Level: I wasn't quite sure what was going on for awhile but started to get some inklings towards the end.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Who knows? I think Edward Norton and Paul Giammati are always Oscar worthy.

Big Screen or Rental: Oh - go for the big screen and have some fun. For some other fine Edward Norton films try renting: The Italian Job, 25th Hour, Frida, Fight Club, American History X, Rounders, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Primal Fear.

Length: Under two hours.