Lots of kids movies like to tell us to embrace our differences but none of them quite celebrate the nerds and weirdos like Magic Camp. Magic camp is pretty much where outcast kids assemble, do weird things, and leave even stranger. But they’re also following their passions and making friends and owning their strengths.
When Theo (Nathaniel McIntyre) receives an invitation to the prestigious institute of magic, he’s kind of surprised. He used to practice magic in order to bond with this father, but since his father’s passing he’s sort of let it go. But since he didn’t apply himself, he’s pretty sure it was a last gift from his father, and he vows to make him proud.
The great thing about magic camp is that each cabin has an actual famous/working magician (and former camper) as their leader. Campers in the diamond cabin are super excited that Darkwood (Gillian Jacobs) has left her Vegas show to teach them, but the hearts cabin are a little less satisfied since David Blaine seems to have backed out last minute, leaving them with Vegas cabbie Andy (Adam Devine). Andy and Darkwood are former lovers and a former professional duo, but ever since she left him to go solo, things have been tense. Magic camp stokes a rivalry between cabins, asking them to compete for the coveted magic top hat, but between Andy and Darkwood there’s a natural animosity that breeds an intense conflict. Everyone wants to win.
I went into this kind of dreading it. You might remember my extreme dislike of Adam Devine, who smiles like the Joker but has dead serial killer eyes. His schtick is to be smug and obnoxious, so it’s hard to imagine anyone really liking him. I’m sort of also not throwing Gillian Jacobs any parades, but I’ll reserve my biggest gripe for Jeffrey Tambor who plays magician mentor and camp owner Preston. This was unfortunate casting that I assume was done well before the world found out he’s a steaming pile of shit. So I’m going to attempt to put all my casting resentments into a nice piece of tupperware, store it in the fridge, and judge this movie on the leftovers.
And you know what? It’s not bad. I mean, it’s not meant for adults. It is newly available to stream on Disney+ and apart from the famous if awful big names in the cast, it feels like it could be an offering from Disney channel. But the opening credit sequence is kind of impressive, although it sets up a better movie that you’ll wish they delivered on. The kids are great, though – they’re exactly the careful mix of ethnicities that you know isn’t really genuine, but we’ll let it go. Young audience members will no doubt like the magical flair as the kids go through an easy to predict sequence of events – you know, succeeding as a team, learning to believe in themselves, all that usual garbage. But with flavourful side dishes like card tricks, illusions, rabbits galore, and plenty of flashy stage costumes. Its plot will be blatantly transparent to anyone over 12, but it follows a tried and true formula that younger kids eat right up. And with a wholesome message to boot, it makes for an easy piece of family viewing.