A young woman named Mia goes to a run-down old circus and sees a performance by an acrobat known as the Aerialist. During his performance, he misses a trapeze and falls into the sand below — then through it. Mia rushes to help but gets sucked through as well, and finds herself in a...rather different universe. Now separated, the two of them search through various "worlds" looking for each other, sometimes being helped by the curious inhabitants, and sometimes being hindered by them.
Brushing aside this Excuse Plot, this movie is a highlight reel drawn from seven Cirque du Soleil productions that were running in Las Vegas, Nevada at the time of shooting. (Six are still running; Viva Elvis closed a few months prior to the film's release.) These shows, unlike Cirque's tours, have never been filmed for the home video market (KA was shot for a few European television airings) owing to agreements with the casino resorts that host them. The film thus serves as a sampler platter of shows that most audiences wouldn't have a chance to see otherwise and a promotional tool.
The shows represented are:
This movie contains examples of:
- Adaptational Modesty: The Water Bowl segment from Zumanity, an adults-only show, is made safe for a PG movie via 1) dropping the nudity, 2) changing it to a turn for a solo female performer, whereas onstage it's performed by a female duo, and 3) switching out the rowdy, R&B song that originally accompanies the act for the song "Nostalgie" from O.
- Adaptational Villainy: The creatures that emerge from the sand to spook and separate Mia from the KA good guys here are comic relief in the original show.
- The Beatles and Elvis Presley: Their songs appear in the segments drawn from their Jukebox Musical-variant shows.
- Big Damn Kiss: Mia and the Aerialist share a kiss after spending the entire movie looking for each other and having just been reunited after an aerial straps performance.
- Creative Closing Credits: The first stretch of the credits runs over footage of the casts of six of the represented shows taking their bows for appreciative Vegas audiences. (The exception is Criss Angel BeLIEve, which only provides a bit part with the animated rabbit head the Aerialist encounters.)
- Distressed Dude: After falling into the Cirque world, the Aerialist is captured by the Archers and Spearmen from Ka and taken to the Counselor.
- Down the Rabbit Hole: Plot framework.
- Einstein Hair: Le Vieux (from O).
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Aerialist is never given a name.
- Flight of Romance: At the end, after Mia and the Aerialist are reunited. More specifically, it's Aerial Straps of Romance.
- The Freakshow: The early parts of the film have Mia walking through one.
- Laughing Mad: Despite being a helpful character, Le Vieux definitely gives quite the laugh when Mia first meets him.
- Held Gaze: Between Mia and the Aerialist at the beginning, which is what causes him to miss the trapeze and fall.
- Living Shadows: Mia and the Aerialist briefly become these in the "Get Back" number.
- Love at First Sight: Mia and the Aerialist.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Seven different shows!
- Melancholy Moon / Weird Moon: The Aerialist has an encounter with one — it first becomes the water bowl for the aforementioned Zumanity excerpt, and then he falls into its expanded waters to transition into the "Octopus' Garden" sequence.
- Non-Ironic Clown: Several — Le Vieux, the Sad Clown, and another in the big top who mimes what the ringmaster's saying.
- Paddleball Shot: There's a bit with a fireblower at the beginning, but otherwise this trope is avoided.
- Pinball Protagonist: While Mia and the Aerialist are seeking each other, they spend most of the film getting caught up in and reacting to the events taking place around them. They rarely affect said events and are offscreen for significant stretches of time.
- Sad Clown: The one who gives Mia the flyer about the Aerialist. He's apparently called the Sad Clown.
- Silence Is Golden: Most of the spoken lines are in the opening sequence before the story goes Down the Rabbit Hole. After entering the Cirque world what little dialogue they have is mostly
- Skirt over Slacks: Mia, most apparent during the finale when she spins and her dress flares out.
- Splash of Color: Inverted with Mia, who only wears white and black. (This is not the first time in Cirque that the newcomer to a magical world stands out for their colorless clothing. In fact, it's happened twice.)
- Troubled Fetal Position: After Mia falls into the forest from the sandcliff, right before the Aerialist finds her.
- Under the Sea: During the Octopus Garden sequence.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: The Aerialist.