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Now you see 'em

The Magic Box is a visually brilliant biography of Las Vegas' grand illusionists, Siegfried & Roy.

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

The first amazement in the 3-D IMAX spectacle Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box is that those famous Las Vegas illusionists/animal trainers have complete names. They're pretty impressive ones, too: Fischbacker and Uwe Ludwig Horn, respectively. Not easy to squeeze them onto a casino marquee.

With a little luck and a lot of tigers, Siegfried & Roy have built quite a reputation -- and their own Vegas theater. In their elaborate stage shows, their hands are quicker than the razzle-dazzle. Even elephants disappear. When one of the ubertanned showmen gets locked in a box, it's a good bet the other will emerge, if some wildlife doesn't spring out first. The shows are a stupefying combination of Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, with a little Houdini and Wayne Newton schmaltz on the side.

If you wonder how Siegfried & Roy do it, forget it, because show biz folks don't tell. If you're interested in why they do it, The Magic Box, released in 1999, is a visually brilliant biography (narrated by Anthony Hopkins), augmented by Channelside Cinemas' capacity for 3-D viewing. Sure, we get animals leaping into our faces, but director Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man) also creates fantastic, computer-generated shadow boxes of dreamy locales as the pair's professional-life story unfolds.

We see Siegfried as a boy sitting on an incredibly cozy German mountain peak, envisioning himself as an adult taming tigers. Then there's a gorgeous street scene where serendipity leads to his first magic trick, which opens a new facet of his stern, distant father. Meanwhile, Roy stares out his basement window at passing ships, wishing he could board one to escape his contentious household. Later, he does, working as a busboy until a stage magician -- Siegfried -- asks him to join the act.

These brisk histories are part of the "magic box" of memories opened for a pair of wide-eyed children before a show in Las Vegas. Leonard occasionally trips forward in time to display the duo's act and, for time padding, the palatial wildlife preserve they've built at the home they share. The illusions get predictable, and the biographies are fluff, but The Magic Box is a worthwhile example of the IMAX experience.


Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box

Grade: B+

Director: Brett Leonard

Cast: Siegfried Fischbacker, Roy Uwe Ludwig Horn, narrated by Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Lyn Vaus, Brett Ratner

Rating: Not rated, probably PG

Running time: 45 min.

Now playing: Channelside IMAX Theater in Tampa through Nov. 25

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