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Oscar®Oscar® Nominee for Best Animated Feature Film

The Illusionist also known as “L’illusionniste”

MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for thematic elements and smoking.

Reviewed by: John Walker

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Animation Drama
1 hr. 20 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 5, 2010 (festival)
December 25, 2010 (limited)
DVD: May 10, 2011
Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics


theatrical stage magician / illusionist magic

end of an era / starving artist / melancholy

DEPRESSION—Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

rock 'n' roll

sad clown


Featuring: Jean-Claude Donda (The Illusionist / French Cinema Manager), Eilidh Rankin (Alice), Duncan MacNeil (Additional Voices), Raymond Mearns (Additional Voices), James T. Muir (Additional Voices), Tom Urie (Additional Voices), Paul Bandey (Additional Voices), Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot)
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Producer: Django Films Illusionist, Ciné B, France 3 Cinéma (Paris, France), Canal+ (Paris, France), See all »
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

“from the director of ‘The Triplets of Belleville’”

“The Illusionist” is the story of an aging magician and his daily routine and struggle for sustenance. It is a story filled with drab and dark cityscapes, eclectic characters, and interesting images. One is instantly taken by the animation style of the movie. It has an old style “Disney” feel reminiscent of “The Rescuers” or something like “Anastasia”. Its nostalgic feel and look pay homage to past animation styles with detailed backgrounds and hand drawn characters, while intermingling some computer generated animation and live action vignette.

The story centers around the illusionist who performs for whatever venue might have him. His efforts are barely acknowledged or appreciated, by most. He struggles throughout the movie, whether with his “feisty” rabbit (trying to get it back in its cage) or with the daily hardships of just making a living.

During a venue at a country tavern, he meets a young woman who shows him genuine kindness, and he repays her with the same. They form a bond amid the harsh world and travel back to the city. She clings to him for hope, it seems. It is there that they meet interesting circus performers who share their inn. Sometimes funny, but mostly bittersweet, the movie neither comes to any great conclusion or to any tragic end. It is just a shining moment in each of their lives that leaves as quickly as it entered.

My wife did not want to watch after the first 15 minutes. She found it a little disheartening and sad. As the story went on, the main characters became more defined, and she found herself drawn in to the story. That is a good way to describe the film. It has interesting characters who come to grow on you, as they pass along their way.

Bear in mind that this is not a children’s story or a movie that contains strong Christian morals. Smoking, suicide, and drinking are themes that are in the movie and seem appropriate for the story they portray. I was uncomfortable with these themes. I think mainly because of my preconceived notions of what the movie might be like. There is no sex or violence shown, but there is the threat of suicide, and the movie ends with the perceived notion that a man and woman might end up living together without marriage.

There are strong redeeming qualities in the two main characters. They are genuinely kind and do not return the harshness that the world seems to give to them. The main character works hard and is willing to share the little he has.

Matthew 22:39 says, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (NIV). These two verses are played out by the main characters. Their actions really draw you to them, and we can see why they are important verses to live out in our lives. The contrast of someone who practices these things and someone who doesn’t, really makes the Lord’s Words ring even truer.

All in all, I would give the film a mild yes. Something like a 6 to 7 out of 10. It is not for younger children (nor would I think they would enjoy it all that much). I enjoy interesting animated movies, and this one was interesting, but not great. If you enjoy Charlie Chaplin or character studies, then this is a fine film for you. I left a little dissatisfied with the ending, but enjoyed the film nonetheless.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:


Neutral—I wanted to like this movie; it’s a nice, rainy-day film. The characters were quirky and likeable, the animation was beautiful. I also enjoyed the music. It fit the movie’s slow, quiet pace. However, the ending left me feeling confused and sad. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Annie Simmons, age 19 (USA)
Neutral—This was one of those movies that all the critics raved about, but it left a room full of viewers at my house wondering how to feel about it. I wanted to like it, but the movie meandered in and out of bleak situations with no real resolution to anything. It ultimately left me with a “that’s really it?” feeling at the end. The animation was mesmerizing, and the characterizations were curiously outlandish, in a Tim Burton’s sort of way. The movie didn’t do nearly as much for me as it did for the critics.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
Bruce, age 47 (USA)


Movie Critics
“at once mesmerizingly beautiful and subtly, emotionally nuanced in a way that only Pixar’s animated features have managed to approximate of late. It is, voilà, not just the most magnificent animated film of the past year, but also, simply, one of the best films of the year, period. …”
Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle
“…To watch—and listen—to his films and ‘The Illusionist’ is to be reminded of how much useless jabbering there is in movies. …”
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“…The tale is observational rather than driven by narrative force, and that is part of its problem. Vagueness is its downfall. …There is something about cartoon animation that lends itself to wistful melancholy. ‘The Illusionist’ takes this mood to an extreme. …”
D.K. Holm, Vancouver Voice
“simple, emotionally potent story—a semi-silent film, in which linguistic gibberish is universally understood…” [A-]
Lisa Schwarzbaumm Entertainment Weekly
“Mr. Chomet’s passion for hand-drawn figures gives the film the look of museum-quality watercolors that move. From the Scottish highlands to the bustling traffic jams of Edinburgh, the animation is so three-dimensional that when the illusionist’s disagreeable rabbit escapes through the hurling bodies of a trio of robust acrobats, wreaking havoc in the theater, you really feel as though it’s heading for your seat.”
Rex Reed, The New York Observer
“Paying painterly, loving homage to a cinema legend, The Illusionist envelops its audience in Sylvain Chomet’s artful animation and quaintly realized world—though, in contrast to his international hit The Triplets of Belleville, the ultimate destination is closer to melancholy than bittersweet charm.”
Bill Weber, Slant Magazine
“doesn’t disappoint… Auds, especially in Gaul, who don’t expect animation to be aimed squarely at kids or to feature the latest technology will be utterly entranced by ‘The Illusionist’s’ old-school magic, but less adventurous viewers may need some persuading.”
Leslie Felperin, Variety
“Bittersweet, moving and utterly beautiful: a love letter to cinema and to Scotland. …This must be the final nail in the coffin of those who claim that animation is only for kids. …this feels like an elegy to a dying time…” [4/5]
Helen O’Hara, Empire [UK]
“I fell in love with ‘The Illusionist’. …Gorgeous, and full of bittersweet whimsy…” [4/4]
Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer