"The Illusionist" is luxuriously filmed and scored in the opulent style of Joel Schumacher's recent "The Phantom of the Opera." And this might not be a bad thing had the movie not taken itself so dreadfully serious. In fact to be honest, "The Illusionist" is the worst kind of film making: dull, sickeningly pretentious, overstuffed visually and pompously acted. Even the excellent Edward Norton, who can usually do no wrong, is caught up in all the declamatory, melodrama style of acting on exhibit here. To top it all off Phillip Glass borrows many themes from his irritating score of "The Hours" which underscores and sometimes over scores what little action there is in this static bore of a film.
Despite all of this, the actual bare bones story is unusual and interesting having to do with reality/illusion, love/desire, sexual attraction and the walls between social classes that existed in turn of the century Vienna. Director Neil Burger's take on all this is simply just wrong. In a nutshell: if your story is tricky, complicated, mysterious, etc...you had better make all the window dressing, including the acting, very straightforward and pure devoid of old-style stage gesticulations and overly dramatic musical crescendos. Burger, of course does just the opposite and what we have then is once again: an excellent cast miss-used, an interesting story miss-directed...another case of great aspirations turned into a big, over-fed, corpulent sow of a movie.