While I realize that this is only one review, Houdini starring Adrien Brody, in no way shape or form sounds like anything that I would like to sit through for two nights in a row. I don't know if you've ever seen the Hollywoodized version from 1953 starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh but I'll take it any day of the week over this mind-boggling heavy-handed psychobabble claptrap.
Yes, I know the Curtis version is highly fictionalized but when I watch a movie about a famous magician I want to be entertained. If I want to see someone psychoanalyzed, I watch The Sopranos.
And if I want to see Adrien Brody, I put in my Blu-ray of King Kong.
Brody represents a casting coup of sorts for the producers and History, but almost from the opening moments, there’s a grating aspect to the film, as if this were the first bio about an overachiever with mommy issues. Perhaps that’s because Houdini, in monotonous voiceover, insists on analyzing what motivated him: “Unlike other people, I don’t escape life; I escape.” (A veteran screenwriter, Meyer’s adaptation is based on a book published by his father, Bernard C. Meyer, in the 1970s.)Yes I do realize that there were two other versions of Houdini. One of them starred that Starsky fellow (Paul Michael Glaser) without Hutch and costarred Archie Bunker's daughter Gloria Stivic (Sally Struthers). But one of my exes was a devout Starsky and Hutch fan, and rammed it down my throat every chance she got. So I cannot be objective in regards to Starsky's Hutchless Houdini. However, I might record it and watch Mr. Brody in the future sometime between now and the next decade. If I’m not doing anything important. You know, like living.
Nor is there much supporting help for Brody, with Kristen Connolly coming off as a nag playing Houdini’s perpetually concerned wife, Evan Jones as the architect behind his many tricks, and practically no one else registering.
Leaping about in time, the movie chronicles Harry Houdini’s upbringing as Ehrich Weiss, a Jewish immigrant from Budapest (where, incidentally, the miniseries was shot), parlaying his early love of magic into a stage act that eventually made him one of the most recognizable figures of his era. Along the way, the project takes detours to chronicle some of the other historical figures Houdini encountered, which included using that access to spy on behalf of the Americans and British before World War I.
The mini’s second half, meanwhile (after the most anticlimactic opening-night cliffhanger imaginable), focuses squarely on Houdini’s determination to contact his beloved and departed mother (Eszter Onodi), leading to the war on mediums he conducted, branding them psychics and frauds. That prompts an unexpected run-in with Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose wife claimed she could patch Houdini in to the great beyond.
Update: Here’s another opinion from Roger Ebert’s leftover movie review web site. It’s not any better.
There’s just way too much filler between those moments of passion. Speaking of passion, Brody and Kristen Connolly, as his put-upon wife who was more of an assistant than a partner, have zero chemistry, although it’s not really the fault of the charming “House of Cards” star as much as the screenwriters who gave her no character with which to work. Again, it comes back to the writing. When Houdini and wife argue about how she's putting him in a box in their marriage and she says “You’re only happy in a box!,” even the most forgiving of melodrama fans will roll their eyes.OUCH!