“Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box” brings to the big Imax screen subjects unbeatably suited to its lavish scale and the slightly surreal effect of 3-D: the stage show and personal legend of phenomenally successful Las Vegas entertainers Siegfried & Roy, they of the gold capes and disappearing white tigers. Added to the well-nigh universal appeal of its stars, pic’s 20 minutes of computer graphics, the most extensive so far in an Imax film, provide an appropriate and alluring storybook visual setting that should help make this one of the most popular Imax 3-D films yet.
No mere record of a Vegas extravaganza, pic cleverly interweaves dazzling performance segments with a charming, fairy-tale-like chronicle of its heroes’ early lives. Tale opens with two boys sneaking backstage, hoping for a peak at the tricks behind S & R’s stage show. Instead, the magicians appear and escort their fans on an imaginative tour of their realm and its kismet-touched history.
Shown separately, the future showmen grow up in a Germany ruined by World War II. Blond, classically Aryan Siegfried climbs mountains and later becomes interested in stage magic, hoping to dispel the gloom of his soldier father. Dark-haired, delicate Roy has a lifelong affinity for animals, beginning with a dog who rescues him from quicksand and continuing with a cheetah, Chico, that he takes with him when he gets a job as a steward on a cruise ship.
On shipboard, Roy discovers Siegfried performing magic tricks and asks if he could make a cheetah disappear. Thus is showbiz history made. With its combination of romance and innocence, pic’s account of duo’s real-life meeting could provide incidental appeal to gay auds as well as to families. Throughout these biographical episodes, computer effects provide backdrops such as illustrated cityscapes and giant clocks, which give a magical aura to the real-life events.
The interspersed performance segments, featuring Siegfried and Roy before live audiences, boast all manner of pyrotechnics and lavish costumes. But the emphasis is on magic and animals, and helmer Brett Leonard wisely shows the most impressive tricks in single takes in order to further the illusion.
Pic culminates at S & R’s lavish estate outside Vegas, where they live in Arabian Nights splendor and raise their animals, some belonging to endangered species they hope eventually to return to the wild. Tale concludes with the duo’s hope that the new millennium will bring humankind “an enlightened respect for nature.”