The Illusionist



Touching, beautiful drama about the magic of friendship.
  • Review Date: December 21, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The idea that you should commit random acts of kindness for others is encouraged in the movie. Both Tatischeff and Alice are empathetic and generous, even with the little they have themselves. Tatischeff is especially selfless, working other jobs on top of his magician work in order to feed and clothe Alice.

Positive role models

Tatischeff is a kind and loving man who just wants to do his sleight-of-hand shows for as many people as possible. Even in the face of commercial failure, he never succumbs to despair, and he manages to maintain his dignity. Alice is sweet and generous, but she's also overcome with longing for material gifts, like new shoes, coats, dresses, and expensive meals.


There are a couple of upsetting scenes involving stage performers. In one case, a mime is kicked and shoved by schoolboy bullies. Later, he's about to commit suicide by hanging himself, but he's stopped by an act of kindness. Young children will not understand the sense of sadness that surrounds many of the characters in the movie.


A couple walks arm-in-arm and seems to have feelings for each other. A random couple is shown kissing in the park. A man and a woman see each other from afar, grow infatuated with each other, and end up in a romantic relationship -- hugging, holding hands, and sharing a brief kiss.


Most of the movie is wordless, but there's a use of "dang it."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A character is shown getting drunk at a party -- he can't walk straight, bumps into things, and ends up causing a minor catastrophe at the reception. There are also valets passing out champagne. In Scotland, the magician works at a pub, where most of the patrons are in various stages of drunkenness. Adults also drink at restaurants; on one occasion, a ventriloquist is shown passing out at a table. One character is melancholy after a personal loss, and he drowns his sorrows at the pub.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although this film is animated and rated PG, it's not aimed at very young children. From the same French filmmaker who made the award-winning The Triplets of Belleville, this melancholy look at the touching, platonic friendship between an older French magician and a younger Scottish barmaid has grown-up themes that are best appreciated by adults. In several scenes, characters drink and in certain cases are drunk. A key sequence in the movie takes place in a pub. The language is limited to a "dang it"; in fact, the story is nearly wordless -- which may mean that children will have a hard time understanding it.

What's the story?

In 1959 Paris, aging magician Tatischeff (voiced by Jean-Claude Donda) struggles to find paying gigs as audiences dwindle in favor of rock-and-roll acts. After a humiliating reception, THE ILLUSIONIST takes up a Scotsman's offer to perform at his pub in the U.K. During his stint at the small village pub, Tatischeff befriends wide-eyed young barmaid Alice (Elidh Rankin), who's so enchanted with his routine that she actually believes he has magical powers. The two travel together to Scotland's bigger cities, where they live in a rooming house full of other hard-on-their-luck performers -- mimes, acrobats, and ventriloquists. With Tatischeff having become Alice's provider (he spends his pay buying her presents), the two develop a bond that, while not explicitly romantic, is more intimate than a regular friendship. But without a suitable venue for his talents, Tatischeff could lose everything -- including Alice.

Is it any good?


In The Illusionist, French director Sylvain Chomet proves once again that impressive animation isn't solely the domain of Pixar. His tender tale about Tatischeff and Alice isn't going to draw in hordes of kiddies, but it will compel adults who yearn for quality storytelling and nuanced animation. Tatischeff, who's based on the real French illusionist Jacques Tati (and if you pay attention, you'll see Tati in a brief movie-theater scene), is so patient, loving, and kind that you almost hope that his May-December friendship will blossom into romance.

A Pygmalion-esque story that makes you wonder about all of the old-school performers without a stage, this is an excellent film. It's not a fast-paced Pixar dazzler or a high-stakes Miyazaki adventure, but it's fantastically depicted and so touching that it's sure to make you shed a tear (or more!) for the kind of magic that transcends age and language -- true friendship.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what the movie is saying about modern entertainment. How has the fate of illusionists and other performers changed throughout the years? Are magicians as nonexistent as the movie suggests?

  • How does this movie compare to most of the animated films you've seen? What sets it apart from the crowd? Who do you think it's intended to appeal to?

  • Discuss the relationship between Tatischeff and Alice. What kind of relationship did they have? Were you surprised at how the movie ended?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 2010
DVD release date:May 10, 2011
Cast:Elidh Rankin, Jean-Paul Donda
Director:Sylvain Chomet
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Friendship
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements and smoking

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Educator and Parent of a 9 and 9 year old Written byDtownmom March 13, 2011
My kids (9yr old twins) and I are used to seeing off-the-mainstream films at our local independent theater. However, this movie was extremely depressing and left one with no hope or faith in people. The young woman comes across as greedy. All the down-on-their-luck performers get further down-on-their-luck - to the point of ending up as a drunken homeless person nodding in an alley. The note the illusionist leaves the young woman at the end of the movie shows his ultimate bitterness. (This was the turning point that made one of my daughters burst into tears). Not a feel good movie! While the animation is lovely, the story is one of hopelessness and despair, and shows that while sometimes people can be kind to one another, it is ultimately every man for himself.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 8 year old Written byDeb_Aura February 2, 2011

Quietly beautiful, be prepared if going with the under 10 crowd.

This is a very unusual but beautifully made film with many subtly heart-stopping images. Thanks to the review here I was able to prepare my 8 y/o about the lack of dialogue and the drinking. We were well prepared for its themes and melancholy mood. It held his attention throughout, which means it is a very good movie. I'm glad we saw it with one exception: I was very surprised the capsule here did not mention that one of the characters is about to hang himself but doesn't because of an encounter with Alice.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bykhan2705 February 16, 2011


4.5/5 The Illusionist is one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. With emerging rock stars stealing his thunder in the late 1950s, he is forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theatres, at garden parties and in bars and cafés. Then, while performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever. Watching his performance for the excited villagers who are celebrating the arrival of electricity on their remote island, Alice is awestruck by his show and believes his tricks are real magic. Though they don?t speak the same language, the two lonely strangers quickly bond through small kindnesses. Fascinated by The Illusionist, Alice stows away on his departing ship and follows him to Edinburgh. There, they quickly fall into a father - daughter relationship, with Alice keeping their home at a boarding house for vaudevillians, while he goes to work in a small local theatre. Enchanted by her enthusiasm for his act, The Illusionist rewards Alice with increasingly lavish gifts he has 'conjured' into existence. Desperate not to disappoint her, he cannot bring himself to reveal that magic does not exist and that he?s driving himself to ruin working all night jobs to buy her gifts. As The Illusionist grows older, Alice grows up. She falls in love with a young man and is no longer so enchanted by The Illusionist?s conjuring. She moves on with her life, and The Illusionist no longer has to pretend. Untangled from his own web of deceit, he resumes his life as a much wiser man. well this movie was something i was waiting to watch from the very beginning, when i saw its trailer, i knew exactly how this movie was gonna be not like anyother ordinary animated movie. and also it is foreign movie. and i also predicted its nomination for Oscars in the Best animated category. i saw this movie with very high hopes and very huge expectations. and it surpassed my expectations. this movie is one of the best animated movie ever made. i mean a wonderful and magnificent piece of art. this movie is very slow moving, it has very long scenes and not much actually happens in it but that is the beauty of this movie, i am so shocked and very amazed by how good the movie is and how well they made it. people will find it very boring and will not swallow or digest the movie. but if they concentrate on the beauty of the movie they will like me, fall in love with it. well i really can't talk about the acting performances because it is a animated movie. but this movie is directed by Sylvain Chomet. talking but actors remind me of their voice acting but um, wait a minute, this doesn't have voices. this is a silent movie, well not completely. you will find some isolated one word talks like thank you or hi but not full sentences or dialoges. still you can understand and feel exactly what is happening in it. i mean you can even feel what is going on in the characters mind and what they are feeling. the movie has been made in a very brilliantly masterful way, excellent direction. screenplay is well written in a very intelligent and genius way. the movie is very simple and also heartbreaking. its really emotional and depressing. i got really emotional watching it. as i said it is a silent movie but it has great sound effects and background score is so good. it is a remarkable movie, visually stunning. watercolors, amazing charming movie. such a magical experience. visuals are so good. the scenery and cities are shown in such a good way with hand drawn animations that i think are good than the real. a classic movie, classical way. brilliantly written. i loved it. MUST WATCH.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages


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