Review: The Illusionist Blu-ray/DVD

The Illusionist Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Sylvain Chomet | CAST: Jean-Claude Donda, Eilidh Rankin, Duncan MacNeil
RELEASE DATE: 4/10/2011 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD combo $38.96
BONUSES: two featurettes
SPECS: G | 80 min. | Animated drama | 1.85:1 aspect ratio | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Illusionist movie sceneNot to be mistaken for the magic movie starring Ed Norton, The Illusionist was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Film, and it’s well-deserving. The movie boasts beautiful hand-drawn animation that’s a step away from such modern CGI-animated fare as The Incredibles and throwback to the more classic animation of, say, Watership Down. And like Watership Down, The Illusionist tells a sad tale, so get out your tissues.

In the film, an aging French magician must go where the work is, and it’s less than glamorous — weddings, pubs, department store windows. When he takes pity on a poor girl cleaning a Scottish pub, she follows him, believing the things he gives her are from magic. But as his audience dwindles in favor of rock stars, the illusionist must try to make ends meet anyway he can, even taking a job in a garage.

This is not a tale of hope with a nice happy ending a la Disney. The Illusionist looks at how changing times affect the people it leaves behind, such as the ventriloquist who has to sell his puppet and then turns to drink.

But looking at the gorgeous animation, with its lush colors, you wouldn’t expect such a sad ending. The animation is especially beautiful in Blu-ray’s high-definition video, and the score sounds amazing.

Forget about voices, though, because there aren’t any, not idenfiable at least. And that’s the point. This story is told purely in action, and no one will have any problem following.

Sony continued the no-voice theme on the Blu-ray’s special features, which is disappointing. The disc contains only two extras: “The Making of The Illusionist” and “The Animation Process: A Rare Look at the Line Tests and Progression Sequences.”

Don’t be deceived by the making-of. It’s a bunch of scenes showing the filmmaking in progress with no interviews, no voiceover, and it’s only a couple minutes long.

The “Animation Process” featurette is the same, just some pictures of the original line tests of the characters, and again, just a couple minutes long.

To say the film is the highlight of this disc is an understatement. If you want to learn about The Illusionist, you’ll find more in our interview with producer Bob Last. Sony, if you’d like to include it on a future version of the movie, email me. We can talk.

Final note, this film is only coming out in this Blu-ray set, but the package does include a DVD with the movie too if you don’t have a Blu-ray player.


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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.