The Illusionist

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Illusionist Movie Poster Image
Touching, beautiful drama about the magic of friendship.
  • PG
  • 2010
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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."

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGomez February 9, 2013

Not for sensitive kids

The music and cinematography were lovely, however, this film has adult themes that are a bit too heavy for children. It is certainly not for sensitive ones. My... Continue reading
Parent Written by[email protected] December 28, 2012

Don't bother watching this overrated film!

This film is incredibly sad. It has almost no comedy. My 10 year old son was crying when the movie ended. It's a story about struggle, failed relationships... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byT J May 8, 2018
Kid, 10 years old April 16, 2012

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animation

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