Mindfreak cover

STUDIO: A&E Home Video
MSRP: $34.95
RATING: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 7 hr, 42 min
• Commentary w/ Criss Angel on two episodes
• 5 bonus featurettes

The Pitch

Harry Houdini meets the pavement! Except without the vendetta against mystics,
and more Vegas attention whores."

The Humans

Angel and his entourage, plus most of
Las Vegas and localized portions of New York City.

The Nutshell

Angel isn’t content with describing his illusions with common words such as
"tricks," or "magic;" no, he has to come up with his own
word. That word is "mindfreak," and it will be repeated (often
shrilly and loudly) often throughout your experience with this show, which is
mostly about Angel performing a mix of street magic and larger, more
sensational demonstrations.

The Lowdown

Magic on
TV? Who thought that was a good idea? Illusions require an even greater
suspension of disbelief than does fiction, and adding another level of
potential trickery by way of cameras and editing makes it that much harder for
an audience to hit the sweet spot of rapt attention. Who knows what was lurking
in that last flat cut? The producers know.

Someone Pointing Out the obVious

for those who can manage to suppress their skepticism, Criss Angel – Mindfreak
is a hell of a fun show. Each episode is structured around a substantial
demonstration of Angel’s illusion, while ramping up the expectation by filling
in the rest of the half-hour with related smaller illusions. The technique
employed in the pacing is traditional reality show fare, with
"unrehearsed" interview segments, people aping for the camera, and a
general sense of congenial artifice. Angel will occasionally explain a minor
piece of illusion, or do a brief profile on magicians who inspired him into
whatever the trick du jour is. Sometimes
it drags in the filler material, but the final demonstration is almost always a
great payoff.

impresses the most about Mindfreak is the obvious craft
necessary to pull off the more ostentatious of the demonstrations, such as the
one in which Angel levitates himself from one rooftop to another in broad
daylight. What portion of the craft is the skill of the illusions and what is
the trickery of the producers is moot given the end result is a convincing
illusion. Whether you admire it for its mystical element or for the care in its
creation is your problem.

Guys: you know how you feel when you read about shoving glass tubes up your urethra?
Yeah, this makes me feel kinda like that.

For the
most part, Angel does a good job communicating these illusions. His idiom is
like that of a rock star: unrefined, spontaneous, and self-important. He’s a
talented showman who can nab a street audience in an instant. He seems somewhat
less comfortable actually taping the show, however, as if he’s got some energy
that has been bridled by the men with the money. (Be prepared for lots of
bleeps, though, since the audience suffers no such restrictions.) As were many
illusionists before him, he is obsessed with taking a particular trick and
expanding upon it or refining it to increase its impossibility quotient,
thereby increasing the stunned disbelief of the audience. Not being familiar
with the territory of professional magic, I can’t comment on Angel’s
originality, but his presentations are sufficiently pious as to not irritate
the brain as much as David Blaine tends to. In other words, he’s a fun guide
for the show, and after a while you hardly notice the lisp.

I love a
good illusion. The most talented performers remind me of trickster gods, like
Enki or Bugs Bunny. They possess knowledge and skill that elevates them above
the common man; they delight in proving their cleverness; and they feed on
astonishment. This second season of Criss Angel’s show improves upon the first
in scope and content, but remains a step removed from the audience. As a result,
the source of the magic is conflicted; but the only thing that means is that
when you find yourself saying, "I don’t believe my eyes," you’re more
justified than normal.

Hands up if your wife calls you this, too.

The Package

provides commentary on two episodes: his "Building Float" and his
extension on the trick of sawing a person in half. The commentaries preserve
the mysteries of the illusions, so no secret knowledge for the audience.
Angel’s engaging enough to keep the commentaries entertaining.

The discs
also have a few short featurettes, including "Teach a Trick," in
which Angel does just that; "Interviews," in which no animals are
harmed; "Practical Jokes," which aren’t very practical; "Criss
Angel Special Gifts," which recounts the number of free things that Criss
received over the course of the season; and "Criss Uncensored," which
has a potty mouth.

6.8 out of 10