Having been to Edinburgh, I can avow that the dense, line-and-wash animation of The Illusionist captures the romantic, heavy, often rainy charms of Scotland’s grand old capital. But Sylvain Chomet and his Triplets of Belleville team intend mainly to honor French comedy icon Jacques Tati. Chomet gained rights to a Tati story written in the ’50s (Tati died in 1982), and his movie’s hero is a version of Tati.
The magician, depressed that he is no longer wanted in a France being modernized by TV and rock music (trademark Tati pathos), wanders to Scotland with a teen girl he has informally adopted. But their story is a teaser show of feints and fragments. Many of the visual gags, such as aerialists painting a billboard, are too easy in animation to be impressive, amusing, or magical. When the illusionist goes into a fading theater and catches a vivid glimpse of Tati’s Mon Oncle, that classic’s whimsical reality cuts a hole in this pretty but flimsy film. It confirms what we have been missing: Jacques Tati.
New capsule reviews in the listings: The Green Hornet, Summer Wars, and The Temptation of St. Tony.