This movie is "Romeo and Juliet" meets magic. I liked it enough to say that when it eventually hits cable I will watch it again. It is a chick flick, but it is done intelligently and if you are a girl dating the right guy, it would make a decent date movie. Different versions of this type of story have been seen before. Peasant boy meets Duchess, peasant boy dazzles Duchess with his magic, peasant boy is cruelly separated from Duchess, peasant boy grows up and uses magic to unite with lost Duchess. It isn't a brilliant movie, but overall it has a nice vibe.
The cinematography is a standout. Edward Norton's pulls off a romantic look, which was a nice surprise (I tend not to think of him in romance roles, but hey, if Nicolas Cage does it, why not Norton?). His love interest is played by Jessica Biel, who is thirteen years his junior in real life, but speciously the same age in the film. To both of their credits, by the end, their romance works and the audience ignores the discrepancy.
The story takes place in the late nineteenth century Vienna and Crown Prince Leopold, Rufus Sewell, is set on doing wrong (he's a bad son and mean to women). The illusionist, Norton, comes to town and quickly develops a reputation for putting on a good show. Biel, is not engaged, but there is an understanding she is the Prince's choice for a wife. Paul Giamatti plays Chief Inspector Uhl, a man who takes his orders from the prince.
Although I liked this film, I wouldn't necessarily recommend seeing in a theater, for reasons that have nothing to do with the actually movie. My BIG COMPLAINT is that there were fifteen to twenty minutes of commercials (not previews) that irritated me to no end, especially if you go to the show earlier for proper seating. The last few years has shown an alarming increase in this practice. Truthfully, I watch more commercials at the movies than I do at home. It's insulting to pay for a seat (which aren't as cheap as they used to be) to then be barraged with Coke, sneaker, and previews of network shows for the Fall season as if the ticket buyer was an unfortunate deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi. To add salt to the open wound, there is a summary of sorts over the commercials that have been shown as if the whole experience was a treat the audience should appreciate.
What is ironic, is that Hollywood studios don't understand why movie attendance has been going steadily down. They want to make sure their stories don't insult anyone in Des Moines, yet they seem blind over the fact that this practice is begging movie fans to wait the two months until the DVD is released. At least this way, the viewer can pay less and avoid the commercials. That is what we, the corn fed masses, call a win-win.The whole thing is unfortunate for smaller films, because people will endure commercials for a movie heavy in special effects, but will they do the same for simple stories? I think audience attendance is showing not. Of course, not every film released is going to have potential blockbuster status, thus I wonder why studios and film chains are willing to alienate viewers in such a manner.