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Criss Angel: Mindfreak
Posted to Teevee at 09:49 AM on Sep 9, 2005

Have you ever watched a TV show or a movie and felt embarrassed for the main character?

And you just want the humiliation to stop but you can't turn it off? There's something compelling about someone making a fool of himself but at the same time, the viewer can feel mortified, as if he's the one making a fool of himself.

Criss Angel: Mindfreak is jam-packed full of those eyes-lowered, please-make-it-stop moments. Criss is an illusionist. He works in Las Vegas and wows tourists with his tricks. Criss is not the one making a fool of himself; it's the slack-jawed, tongue-tied people he encounters on the streets. Honestly, they probably don't know what to say when accosted by a short dark man with a big Joisey accent who wants them to pick a card from a deck, but some of them are quite possibly intoxicated. And all of them are visibly uncomfortable.

Criss resembles the sixth member of Bon Jovi, circa 1985. He looks like your friendly neighborhood New Jersey-born car stereo salesman. Sounds like it, too. He has an oddly squeaky voice. Yet, he is projecting a very dark image. Or attempting to. He tries really hard to look like a dark lord of mystery. And sometimes his tricks freak me right out.

But the show isn't really about the tricks, I think. I view it as kind of a twisted psychological experiment. Nearly everyone has been to a magic show and seen well-executed tricks. Criss is hardly blazing a new trail. Yet, the people he encounters and entertains look genuinely shocked and dumbfounded. Are they really that surprised? Do they believe that since Criss is not performing on a stage that there is no illusion or sleight of hand at work? Or are they being polite? There's no footage of half-in-the-bag frat boys from Minnesota shrugging and mumbling "eh" as they wander away. Can one dress up Vaudeville card tricks in sexy quasi-Satanic packaging and make it fresh and interesting for the masses?

The most squirm-worthy episode so far is the one in which Criss wants to try to drive a car while blindfolded. For a reason that continues to escape me, he asks actress and singer Mandy Moore if he can borrow her car (eight million cars in Los Angeles and he asks Mandy Moore? Just rent one. Mandy's not that hard up for screen time). Anyway, Mandy has a beautiful Mercedes and Criss climbs in and drives with six layers of blindfolds and tape on his eyes. And Mandy has quite the potty mouth.

What starts off as an interesting trick soon becomes a chance to ask Mandy out on a date. Before the driving blindfolded bit, he asks her to imagine a place she'd like to eat. After the round-the-block blind drive, he reveals, in an incredibly awkward moment, that he read her mind and has driven them to the sushi joint that she was just thinking about. He even orders for Mandy while still blindfolded. The look on the face of the waiter is priceless. In this instance, it's Criss's not-so-subtle tactics and the befuddled look on Mandy's face that make the moment so hard to watch.

But I can't stop watching. Criss is hypnotic when he hits his stride. He's so completely sincere about what he's doing.


Nice synopsis of the show, you are right in that he seems very sincere about his stunts and preparation for them. I really think the main stunt in each show has not been as interesting as the street magic which intersperses the shows.
Posted by Jim at October 19, 2005 4:15 PM

Criss Angel is awesome. I think he could be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. He can walk on water just like Jesus.
Posted by blaze mclaughlin at May 25, 2006 9:04 AM

not the reincarnation of jesus but he deffently is hot, very hot, and an inspiration to many, including me, he is a modern day hudni
Posted by knife at September 21, 2006 2:21 AM

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