How is this movie half way decent? No seriously, how? Because MAGIC CAMP literally had its first trailer a week ago, was just dumped on Disney+ yesterday, and the trailer sucked major ass. It doesn’t market or promote the film well at all. Although predictable, goofy at times, and even though it doesn’t challenge its audience, Magic Camp is better than it has any right to be because of its heartwarming core story, decent performances from everyone involved, and the fact that other than a very few couple of CGI shots, almost all of the magic tricks done in this film were performed without any computer trickery. When finding out that fact in the middle of watching it, it made me respect the film’s craft that much more. The movie is basically Heavyweights without all the poop jokes, body humor, no Ben Stiller like villain, combined with any Disney Channel movie you might have seen but with a bigger budget, combined with the entertainment value of any high school movie that’s worth its weight in silver, specifically I’m thinking of something like Mean Girls. Which is funny, because this film is directed by Mark Waters, who also directed that classic. While Magic Camp is definitely no classic, it is a guilty pleasure that is sure to get several more viewings from me, whether I need something light heartening to cheer me up, or something for Grayson to enjoy when he gets a little older.
It really is a perfect little family film. Yeah, the film is wacky and rips off a bunch of story/plot beats that I’ve complained about before in recent films like Feel The Beat and Work It, but it doesn’t do it in an eye rolling and “treating its audience as if they were morons” kind of way like those films did. Per IMDB, Magic Camp is described as such: “Andy, at the urging of his former mentor and Magic Camp owner Roy Preston, returns as a counselor to the camp of his youth hoping to reignite his career.” Andy is played by Adam Devine, and yes, even though he plays the exact same character in absolutely everything you have seen him in, just less crude and crass here, his limited acting range works well in this environment, especially when interacting with the group of kids he’s assigned to train and compete with against the other groups within the camp. This movie was shot back in 2017 and I was wondering why it took this long to release it. Well, I can tell you with 100% certainty it wouldn’t have made any money in a theater and its a little too good for the Disney Channel. Right when a certain actor appeared on screen that wasn’t in the trailer, it told me all it needed to know. Actor Jeffrey Tambor is a pretty big presence in this film, and it was shot before he was accused of sexual harassment and became part of the wrong side of #MeToo. But since that has died down and he wasn’t one of the major players, Disney knew they could just quietly put it on their new platform without any muss or fuss, which was honestly the best move they could’ve made with it.
The magic tricks were quite cool to watch, Gillian Jacobs is in this and it was fun to watch her be a little wacky and not just play Britta Perry from Community. I wish she was in it a little more but I loved her role which could’ve been cliche but instead subverts your expectations. But those two things don’t hold a candle to one of the central parts of the story. The movie is really about a young kid named Theo and his journey to become a great magician. He also just recently lost his father, and his father was the one to get him into magic. Now while the script and movie could’ve just had a throwaway line that is supposed to hit you in the feels, instead it actually cast a decent actor, Aldis Hodge, to play the now deceased dad in a couple of flashbacks that EARNS those feels it is trying to elicit from the audience. Combined with a little subplot with his Mom, I actually teared up a little near the end of the film, as it had a very heartwarming climax. Combine that with some fun sequences, some witty one liners that made me laugh out loud, and some wholesome family fun, this is a perfect little kid/family film. I just wish Disney would’ve made a little bit of an effort with promoting it, maybe starting a month ago, bringing some looked forward to fun in the middle of these shitty, shitty times. We all wish that coronavirus would just go away as fast as we could say “Abra Cadabra”, but the reality is we are in this for a little while longer, and if we can find some decent means of escape like Magic Camp, maybe we can look forward more to being put back together soon after 2020 has sawed us in half.