Magic Camp on Disney+ (Review)

Jun 18, 2019
544
288
17
West Bengal, India
I did pretty much nothing more productive during this lockdown apart from watching movies. I was looking for a great magic movie for a long, long time and I chanced upon this movie, i.e, "Magic Camp". But I did watch it and couldn't find an out-and-out MAGICIAN'S review on it, so I thought I'd pitch in!

The movie was directed by Mark Waters and produce by Suzanne Todd. The film starred Adam Devine, Jeffrey Tambor, and Gillian Jacobs. Having watched Waters' Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, I knew that the movie wouldn't disappoint in the comedy/satire area, and Adam Devine was the icing on the cake.

It's important to mention that the movie was shot around 4 years ago, otherwise I'm sure it'd have included the Shin Lim Revolution and feature more of the Cardistry Revolution we are in the midst of.

If you want to watch the trailer of the movie, here is a link!


If you want to read the plot of the movie, here is a link to the movie's Wikipedia page:-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Camp_(film)

Here's what I thought about the movie however ::-

Magic Camp has everything a movie typically needs. It has old romance, young blossoming love, some mild bullying, subsequent defeat of the bullies and a self-discovery premise. Moreover, since the movie stars kids, it also has overprotective parents, always missing in action parents and over-expecting parents. I had no problems with any of these factors because hey, I'm easy to please. Throw in some comedy, some angst, some romance, some family-bonding and some tear-invoking scenes, and I'm satisfied...

As a movie-watcher.

NOT as a magician.

You see, this movie, was a lot about magic, and we need to address some issues.

Honest revelation:- I was biased against the movie. Because if you delve even the fraction of an inch into an art form that isn't music, dancing or acting, you start getting disappointed by that art form's representation in pop-culture. Movies almost always play to stereotypes and get facts wrong. To be fair, it is impossible for a mid-length movie to properly capture every aspect, nook and cranny of an art form.

First off, there is a lot of nerdiness shown in the movie. The director put in magic even where it was totally unnecessary! In the Magic Camp, there was a scene of a kid with a popcorn bucket. You'd expect him to pick up a popcorn with his fingers and put it into his mouth. But no, he is a magician. He levitates a popcorn into his mouth.

In another scene, Andy (Adam Devine) who drives an old lady to (probably) a casino, realises that the woman can't find the 20$ bill she had on her to pay for the taxi. Being a generous guy, he decides to use his own 20$ bill and pretend as if it fell while she was looking around. He could have just dropped a 20$ bill and then picked it up because the lady wasn't looking. But nope. He's a magician. He bends down and produces a bill (seemingly form a backpalm), even though again, nobody was looking.

In recent times, close-up magic has attracted the most number of young magicians, and cards have always been our staple. However, in this movie only one magician (the main character Theo) is a close-up magician. Even more surprisingly, only he specialises in cards! This movie has a costume-changer with a quick change routine, an escape artist, a mentalist and an animal-specialist (bird expert). It's almost as if the director was checking off types of magicians from an imaginary checklist. What can I say, the diversity in the types of magic shown was good. Unrealistic, but good.

They even brought in magic royalty! That is, a family where magic has been handed down since generations.

Also, magicians apparently can't be sporty and all of the best magicians are afraid of holding a basketball.

A specific flaw is that the movie categorises 'sleight of hand' as a type of magic, other types being escapes, penetrations, mind-readings, productions and so on, when sleight of hand is actually a tool used to achieve different types of magic. However, that's a slight (heh heh heh) bit of nitpicking on my part.

The main con of this movie lies in how cheesily it handles the concept of magic, and how it plays to stereotypes. Unfortunate since magic is the main backdrop of the movie.

Since the camp has 4 houses named after the 4 suits in a deck, and the 4 suits are also named multiple times throughout the movie, I think it'd have been a cool Easter Egg for the magic audience if the director introduced the houses in the order of "Clubs, Hearts, Spades and Diamonds" instead of a random order. A little bit of shout out to the big playing cards industry would've been appreciated too.

I researched quite a bit but couldn't find any actual magicians involved as writers or advisors in the movie. I'd be glad if somebody knows more about this and if I find out more myself, I'll post it in this thread. But I think that is the reason that the movie was as cheesy as it is.

A huge pro of this movie however, is that the cheesiness seems to vanish after the first half. I won't lie, the first half was difficult to endure. The second half however blew me away and the main reason was Nathaniel McIntyre, the main character Theo in the movie.

Nathaniel was mostly the only good thing about the first half because he was genuine. He wasn't a flamboyant magician right from the get-go, not the smartest guy, not the coolest guy. He was a guy who liked to mess around with playing cards in his room. He wasn't an attention-seeker, instead his hands shivered uncontrollably when he performed for people.

Colour changes and cardistry that he was great at when he was alone (or with his late father) failed whenever he was in front of an audience full of strangers. He was a normal person, as all most magicians are! He performed magic because he liked it. Because it was fun. He was first shown a magic trick by his father. Since I have personally never been to a magic camp, his character resonated a lot with me.

He performed some fabulous cardistry in the second half. What with casual one-handed shuffles, werms, sybil cuts, L-Cuts AND a 360 degree Carnahan fan, this guy was on fire. He even performs a great card effect at the end of the movie. Needless to say, this guy, had come prepared.

If you watch the movie with an open-mind, you'll find that a lot of the stereotypes that they featured in the beginning, ebbs away towards the end. There's some good representation of female magicians too. The terminology used in this movie are correct for the most part. Eg; even I didn't know that the one handed shuffle is actually called the one-handed faro shuffle and not the one-handed riffle shuffle. They named magicians other than David Blaine and Houdini. The second half of the movie is brilliant.

There is also a tear-inducing scene at the end where Theo realises that his mother, who he thought didn't understand magic as an art form and Theo's obsession, actually was the reason he was in the Magic Camp in the first place. As a teen magician myself, I often look at my parents and go, "Naaaah, they don't 'get' it..." but it's they who keep surprising me by secretly keeping new decks of cards in my drawers even when I don't ask for them.


This movie is a great movie to watch if you are not a magician. The cinematography and direction is great. The character development is amazing. Andy the sour magician who lost limelight became Andy the magician who sacrificed a prime-time slot in a popular theater. Theo the scared kid became Theo the confident kid. Ruth the adorable girl became Ruth the fiery magician.

The movie switches between Las Vegas and a small summer camp for magic. Ironically, this camp has better and more promising magic than Vegas, the 'capital' of magic. In the beginning, the movie shows Theo as a lonely guy, the only magician we can see. The movie ends with an entire camp-full of budding and prominent magicians joyfully yelling "MAGIC CAMP!" (or "Institute of Magic", if you're Andy).

The movie also has very clever dialogues, including "Magic Camp. Even the bullies are nerds." and "There it is, the magic-related clichés which sound profound, but are actually meaningless."

It's a good movie to watch if you're a magician. Won't compare to Nolan's Prestige, of course, but I think it's a really nice watch if you are looking for some pop-culture content related to magic.

I'll leave you with one of my favourite lines from the movie,

"The only way to create more magic in the world is not by creating more magic. It is by creating more magicians."

Tell me if you have already watched it and liked it (or go ahead and watch it right now. The weekend is here, after all).

Thanks a lot!

:)
 

RealityOne

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
3,583
3,857
New Jersey
I watched it last night. It was a fun movie. What I liked is that all the magic performed by the kids (and Andy at his show) was real and was well done. Andy's McCombical Deck routine was not as good as mine :). I loved the Elephant routine. Theo's closing routine was great (despite the angles NOT being good for the judges). If my guess is correct, the method for color change on the bottom of the deck was very cool and I love the the card fountain. And, of course, his presentation was perfect. What I didn't like was that they didn't use the props they bought when they went into town. That was sort of a detour without substance. I did like the "bunny girl" character -- she was just perfect. I'd have fun as a Magic Camp... I mean Institute of Magic counselor.
 
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Jun 18, 2019
544
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West Bengal, India
Theo's closing routine was great (despite the angles NOT being good for the judges).
Probably the reason he didn't win.

Ok I just watched this movie with the family. We all really liked it. I even got a little teary eyed at the end lol.

Thanks for saying that about the review! I tried my best.
I'm glad you watched the movie (though I have nothing to do with how good the movie was :p ). My eyes got a bit sweaty towards the end too, but I didn't know anybody else would find that tear-inducing-level-of-emotional. After all, I cried when Dr. Watson apparently died in the Sherlock movie, so me labelling something as 'tear-invoking' shouldn't count as much!
 
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Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,961
1,096
Utah
But I did watch it and couldn't find an out-and-out MAGICIAN'S review on it, so I thought I'd pitch in!
:)

Oh darn you missed mine :) I made Nick and Erik sit down and watch it at Penguin.

This is their review, from the perspective of magicians. This is Nick's first time seeing it:

 
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