“Magic Camp” stars Adam DeVine, Jeffrey Tambor, Gillian Jacobs, Nathaniel McIntyre, and Cole Sand. Released on Disney+ on August 14, 2020, the film is about a magician who returns to his childhood camp to reignite his career.
The film is directed by Mark Waters, who also directed films such as “Head over Heels”, “Mean Girls”, “Just Like Heaven”, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”, and “Vampire Academy”. Performing magic tricks takes a lot of hard work and determination. It just takes a camp full of inspiring rookies to get us to understand that. This month sees Disney+ releasing not one, not two, but three original films for families to watch before they start worrying about sending their kids back to school during the pandemic. The first original film I’ll be looking at today is something that many of you are not familiar with until now, which is weird because we usually know about certain films a couple of months before they’re released. Similar to “Artemis Fowl” and “Hamilton”, “Magic Camp” was originally set to hit theaters before it eventually went for a Disney+ release. The only difference is that it wasn’t because of the pandemic. You know, because it was scheduled to come out two years before the coronavirus became a thing. It’s a surprising addition to the streaming service’s collection of original content, but is it worth a recommendation?
The story follows Andy Tuckerman (DeVine), a former magician who is now working as a taxi driver. His mentor Roy Preston (Tambor) convinces Andy to return to the summer camp of his childhood called the Institute of Magic to work as a counselor for a ragtag group of young, inexperienced rookie magicians. During his attempt to prepare them for a competition against his former partner Kristina Darkwood (Jacobs), Andy will soon rediscover his true love of magic. This is another family film from Disney that only serves one purpose: to create an experience that’s harmless, heartfelt, and enjoyable for the young kids and their parents. It’s unsurprising for me to see that it served its purpose well, even though its storytelling isn’t magical enough to impress everyone. The film’s message showcased that the only things that are more awe-inspiring than magic itself are friendship and self-acceptance, which will help kids be more confident with themselves whenever they’re doing something that they love. It’s an inspiring message that will surely make your hearts feel warm inside. However, it was almost overshadowed by the execution of its plot. The narrative was insanely predictable and average, and the first act felt a bit weak compared to the rest of the film in terms of introducing its concept. Aside from that, I found it to be a tolerable magic trick that should satisfy most of its target audience. Adam DeVine once again delivered a performance that’s mildly entertaining enough to carry the film forward. After the disaster that was last year’s “Jexi”, it was nice to see him in something that was actually making good use of his talents. They could’ve done a lot more with DeVine’s character Andy, however, but he had the right amount of charm to make his character likable. Gillian Jacobs was also entertaining as Kristina, Andy’s former partner, and Jeffrey Tambor…I got to say, it looked like he was having plenty of fun with his role as Roy. I don’t know if it was his performance or his humor that sold it for me, but I do know that this is one of his most likable performances of his career in my opinion. Another actor I want to mention is newcomer Nathaniel McIntyre. He plays another main character named Theo Moses, a 12-year-old boy who attends the Institute of Magic as he copes with his father’s death. All I can say about him was that his performance felt a bit flat at first, but he got a little better as the film went on. I also have to say that the character of Theo was more interesting than Andy when it comes to character depth. The film’s humor had its share of hits and misses. While there were some parts that managed to get a chuckle out of me, there were also some humorous moments that should make themselves disappear. It’s not 100% hilarious, but it’s also not cringe-worthy either.
Overall, despite putting on a tolerable show, “Magic Camp” doesn’t have a lot of surprising tricks up its sleeves to impress everyone. The cast did pretty well in their respective roles, the film’s message was irresistibly sweet and inspiring, and the humor was somehow passable for a film made for kids. However, its subpar plot and a mediocre first act prevented it from being as talented as the professional magicians we’ve seen in real life. It’s enjoyable enough to wow the kids, but I’m not too sure it will do the same to some of the older viewers who wanted something more out of its story. If you don’t care about the plot being perfect and just want to watch it for the magic tricks, I would say that it’s worth a watch.