The Prestige

By Mark Ramsey | 2006/10/22

It is I, the Great Houdini, back from the grave or, as it’s better known, the opening act for Barry Manilow.

And I’m back just in time to write about The Prestige, the second movie this year targeting an audience who loves magicians – as long as they’re on the big screen and not live on a stage.

Speaking as a one time New Yorker, if a magician can make a pigeon disappear, then why can’t he make all of them disappear?

Such illusions! You’ll swoon as if you’re watching Tara Reid and her amazing levitating breast-like protuberances and hideously liposuctioned belly of irregular mysteries!

Come one, come all!

Marvel as I take a page from the U.S. government and snap my fingers to create a 700 mile fence around Scarlett Johansson’s cleavage. Yes, that would leave 350 miles of bosom unprotected, but we must all sacrifice for our art.

In magic you have four parts to every illusion:

First, “the Pledge,” where you put your right hand on your heart, thus forever remembering which hand is your right.

Second, “the Turn,” where the magician turns something ordinary into a reality show on Bravo.

Third, “the Prestige,” where the magician invites the audience over to his home in the Hollywood Hills to watch a wall-sized plasma TV, drink Cristal, and chat about the project he has in development with Sony.

And fourth, the part where people laugh at the magician.

Most folks will be surprised to know that there is great rivalry between magicians. As we say in the business, “it’s an East coast, West coast thang.” Don’t dis me, or I’ll either put a cap in yo’ ass or stick in a cane that transforms into a bouquet of fake flowers!

And great rivalry is what we have between Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. Although Hugh takes it one step too far when he hires Anthony Pellicano to rummage through Bale’s trash.

Yes, it’s a battle to the finish! Imagine what would happen if Jedi knights swapped light sabers for a deck of cards and buxom padawans and you pretty much get the idea.

Each magician keeps messing with each other’s tricks as the stakes rise. Eventually, the rivalry turns deadly, and it’s every man for himself and Scarlett Johansson for every man. As usual, Scarlett is the woman every guy wants and the actress every drama coach needs.

“I’m in love with whatever Christian Bale’s character’s name is,” Scarlett tells Hugh in a particularly poignant moment as her eyes express the kind of emotion normally associated with a postcard that begins “Greetings from….”

Michael Caine puts on his best cockney as the Lou Pearlman of the magic world. “Aye created ‘N Sync, aye did,” said Caine. “An then, blimey, aye created David Blaine!”

David Bowie plays real-life electrical “wizard” Nikola Tesla who, like Bowie, was also married to a tall Nubian supermodel named Iman. “It’s just coincidence,” said 150-year-old Iman, preserved in amber and communicating strictly via Bluetooth.

The Prestige illustrates several of my favorite show-stopping illusions:

There’s the bullet-catching trick, where I toss a bullet in the air with one hand and miraculously catch it with the other.

There’s the straight-jacket escape where I wiggle free from a long-term relationship with Katie Holmes.

And finally, there’s “The Transported Man,” where Christian and Hugh seem to magically transport through space from one part of the theater to the other without shedding even a single heat tile!

Gosh, you don’t really see magicians nowadays. It’s a lost art, like model rocketry or touring the local nuclear power plant or entering a school without passing through a metal detector.

But maybe the art needs a “prestige” of its own.

The Prestige is absolutely one of my favorite movies this year. It’s original and engaging and most of the twists aren’t nearly as obvious as Jodie Foster’s reasons for choosing pants over a skirt.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


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