Reviews

Magic Camp (2020)

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Magic Camp is a film that I’ve been following for a while. The film was announced years ago even mentioning that Steve Martin was going to be involved in the writing at one point. It was then set for a 2018 theatrical release before being pulled from the release schedule entirely. Eventually, it was decided to debut the film on Disney+ (sans Steve Martin as a screenwriter though). Based on the trailer as well as what I knew of the story, I got Heavyweights vibes from this project. What did I think of the film after finally watching it? Read on to find out!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

Directed by Mark Waters, the film’s opening credits are played alongside performances of magic acts throughout history up to and including the present social media times. We’re then introduced to a young kid named Theo Moses, played by Nathaniel McIntyre. He’s been a lover of magic tricks, particularly card tricks, his whole life, not only just for the enjoyment of the hobby, but it was a way he bonded with his late father, played by Aldis Hodge.

“Except Penn and Teller.”

On this particular day, however, his mother, played by Rochelle Aytes, informs Theo that he’s been invited to attend the Institute of Magic, a summer camp run by magician Roy Preston, played by Jeffrey Tambor.

The Heavyweights vibes are growing stronger!

Theo is hesitant to go, but eventually accepts.

We’re then introduced to the main character of the film, Andy Duckerman, played by Adam DeVine. Andy was a former attendee of the Institute of Magic (which I shall now refer to as Magic Camp) and a skilled magician. He has since stopped performing magic and instead drives a taxi in Las Vegas. He’s approached by Mr. Preston to be a mentor at Magic Camp this summer. Andy is hesitant at first, until he learns that famous magician, Kris Darkwood, played by Gillian Jacobs, will be there as well. He has an obvious history with and grudge on Kris and accepts the invitation from Mr. Preston.

Soon it’s the beginning of Magic Camp and the kids are divided into four teams each led by one of four magician counselors. Each team must perform individual magic acts at the end-of-camp performance for their parents and the best team will be awarded the coveted Top Hat prize. Andy has been assigned to the Hearts team and only has one goal in mind: to make his team win the Top Hat so that Kris’ team doesn’t!

“I want you to know Hearts always trumps! That’s why they named a card game after it!”
“You do know that having Hearts in the card game, Hearts, is a bad thing, right?”

Unfortunately, Andy’s team comprises all newbies to Magic Camp and magic (well, besides Theo). His team comprises an eclectic collection of kids including a geeky mathematical genius with multiple allergies, a sugary sweet bunny-loving girl, and a son of a famous magician who’s more interested in fashion than magic. Some of these kids are played by Cole Sand, Isabella Crovetti, and J.J. Totah (now Josie Totah).

And even Magic Camp isn’t safe from bullies, all of whom seem to be on Kris’ team for some reason.

For anyone reading this review in the future, this movie debuted in the COVID-19 pandemic when we still haven’t found a vaccine. So yeah, this scene was quite eerie!

At first, Andy gets frustrated when the kids seem to mess up everything he tries to teach them. It basically boils down to Andy not wanting to get to know these kids and their strengths. As the days progress, he learns to change his approach and instead learn what each kid’s strength is and figure out a way to use it in a magic act. The overall morale of the team improves and Andy and the kids begin to get along.

We also learn more about Andy and Kris’ past. Apparently, they both used to attend Magic Camp when they were younger and even formed a double act while there. But Andy felt betrayed when Kris went to book a magic gig without him. Kris tells Andy that she hoped to clear the air with him finally and admits that she went to book a gig for both of them, not just her. She tried to tell Andy this back in the day, but he just wouldn’t listen. Eventually she became famous after that gig and Andy always thought it was because she backstabbed him, which she hadn’t.

Awkward…

She decides to help out Andy by getting him a magic gig at a theater nearby. Andy is happy for the opportunity, but it would mean not getting to spend the final days with his team finalizing their performances. He decides to take the gig and leaves at night without telling the kids. Mr. Preston reassures the kids the next day that Andy would be back in time for the performance to see them perform.

Finally, the day of the performance arrives and all the kids are nervous as Andy still hasn’t shown up. Nevertheless, the show must go on. The kids go onstage and perform their magic acts for their parents to great applause! After the show is over, Andy appears from backstage telling the kids he’d been there the whole time watching them. He did an amazing job at his gig and was even offered to work there permanently, but turned the position down. He then decided to remain hidden from the kids so that they believe in themselves when performing their acts. The Hearts end up winning the Top Hat award, much to everyone’s delight!

The Hearts did indeed trump!

Andy gets hired as a talent director at Magic Camp and makes up with Kris. Kris offers Andy to come appear with her onstage every now and then to relive their double act days. And the kids all go home excited to return again the following year…presumably.

And that was Magic Camp! What can I say? You may think the film is pretty straightforward, predictable, and nothing amazing to exult, and honestly, you would be right. But, somehow that works to the film’s benefit. Yes, we see every plot point coming a mile away, but the film does it in an enjoyable way. It’s reminiscent of simple live-action family comedies that we don’t see too much of nowadays.

The acting by all involved is really great, even by the kids, who may not be written amazingly, but performed well-enough. Even Adam DeVine, whom I feared would just be the same character he is in every movie, showed another side to us in his role as a mentor. Gillian Jacobs’ performance was pretty generic though, but again, it’s more because her character wasn’t written with much to do. My favorite character by far was the kid played by Cole Sand!

The magic acts are performed very well by all, especially the kids, and most of the tricks are as you see them and not CG! I feel this film should have gotten a cinematic run! Even if it had only made $35 million, I would have been happy!

So, my final score for this film is 32/35 = 91.43% (A-) !

The next review will be posted on September 8, 2020.

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