It’s a joy to see Kirk Douglas on screen again, whatever the vehicle. In his late eighties, and seriously impaired by a debilitating stroke, he’s obviously frail but still recognizably one of the aging lions of the cinema. Encountering him once more is like having the opportunity to greet an old friend after too long an absence.
In the new film “Illusion” Douglas plays a film director named Donald Blaine, who’s visited on his deathbed by the ghost of one of his former editors, a fellow named Stan (Ron Marasco), who magically transports him to an empty theatre to watch a series of episodes from the life of the illegitimate son, Christopher (Michael Goorjian), whom he refused to accept from his mother and has had nothing to do with over the years. The scenes show the different stages in a potential, but constantly interrupted, romance between Christopher and a girl named Isabelle (Karen Tucker) whom he’s besotted with and clearly destined to be with. Since Donald’s métier, apparently, was romantic movies, and since in his last hours he yearns at long last to become involved in his son’s life (never having had a family of his own), as he watches the “film” the director grows more and more intent on helping the young man win the girl against formidable odds.
This is a well-intentioned but rather precious movie, co-written and directed by Goorjian, and it would be easy to compare it to Capraesque fare like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its real predecessor, though, is “A Christmas Carol,” with Blaine effectively taking the place of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Christopher an older version of Tiny Tim, and Stan taking the place of the three ghosts. Needless to say, it’s hardly in the same class: the episodes from Christopher’s life are cliched in the extreme and their execution hardly subtle, though Goorjian and Tucker are a fairly engaging couple, even getting by in the first scene, in which they’re playing much younger than their years. But the only real reason to sit through “Illusion” is Douglas, whose fierce determination and jutting jaw remain powerful screen presences. Watching him, even at this long remove, reminds you of what the golden age of Hollywood was like.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite enough to make this technically adequate but bare-bones picture, which is further blighted by some weak acting in the supporting roles, recommendable. But it’s a reason you might want to take a look at it despite the flaws.