Slight, off-hand: Oscar-nominated ‘The Illusionist’ aims for twee more than wow
The French filmmaker Jacques Tati was a latter-day Chaplin with Gallic sensibilities. In just a handful of nearly silent films in the 1950s — 30 years before the Griswolds — his guileless M. Hulot got embroiled in a cascade of fiascos that delighted audiences at the time, and some film enthusiasts since.
That was half a century and a full continent ago, and closer in time to when he wrote The Illusionist than when animator Sylvain Chomet adapted it to the current feature-length cartoon, just nominated for an Oscar. You can see why it was nominated: The faded, painterly images evoke the best of 1960s Disney animation, like 101 Dalmatians: Hand-drawn art, not computer-generated commerce.
But just being old school doesn’t quite get you there, entertainment-wise. The Illusionist is sentimental and twee, with a melancholy tone that feels less earned than foisted upon audiences.
Two and a half stars. Read the entire review here.
DEETS: The Illusionist. Rated PG. 80 minutes. Now showing at the Angelika Film Center, Mockingbird Station.