Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box, the utterly delightful but just as superficial biopic about the celebrated Las Vegas magician team, has to be one of the most visually startling films ever to reach screens. Magnificent special effects and exquisite design are the real story here, though the plot follows Siegfried and Roy growing up in Germany, crossing paths on a fateful trans-Atlantic voyage, and teaming up to become the world's foremost magic-and-animal act. The film delivers plenty of footage of the two men in performance and at their Secret Garden sanctuary for rare and exotic animals in Las Vegas.

But among the most eye-pleasing portions of the film are the re-enactments of the pair as boys growing up in Germany, where they indelibly experienced the joys of magic and the love of animals. John Summers, Andrew Dunlap, Dillon McEwin and Cameron Alexander are fine in their roles as Siegfried and Roy as boys and young men. And, of course, the animals that are so integral to the lives and celebrity of Siegfried and Roy are a pleasure to behold.

But it is the scenery-enhanced by the cutting-edge special effects-that steals the show. The IMAX 3D immersive technology, the 20 minutes of computer graphics including the film's virtual sets, and the IMAX big-format experience together create a powerhouse of imagery. Production designers Steve Suchman and Michael Hartog and cinematographer/visual-effects supervisor Sean MacLeod Phillips give us a richly evocative Germany of majestic mountains and quaint cities and buildings. The sequence on the ocean liner-a grand deco design that captures a romanticized bygone era of elegant travel-is unforgettable. The Magic Box, of course, also features Siegfried and Roy's magic box, the centerpiece of their act.

Director Brett Leonard, who debuted with the visually innovative The Lawnmower Man, does a fine job of handling the array of acting, special effects, design and story chores. Alan Silvestri's score never overwhelms but is pleasingly restrained, considering all the finery audiences are asked to behold. And the distinguished Anthony Hopkins as narrator adds class to the whole effort of conveying the power to dream and the power to perform magic.

Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box is yet another IMAX featurette beckoning to kids. But here the outreach is to adults, too.

--Doris Toumarkine