Movie Review: Magic Camp
Another day, another torturous, ninety-minute offering from the executives over at conglomerate titan and future world dominators, Disney. Magic Camp, another feature for the ever-growing pile of forgettable garbage for the Disney+ generation follows a magician who returns to a childhood magic camp after the death of his father. He hopes to reignite the passion he once held for his career, but instead finds a rag-tag group of misanthropes looking to get their foot in the door of the world of tricksters and magicians, and instead falls into aiding them through the trials and tribulations of the magic camp. There’s no man better to teach children about magic than Adam DeVine, and seeing that name appear in the opening credits was, in all seriousness, the worst thing to happen to me this year.
The generic piano key chopsticks and clapping backing track to open Magic Camp should give you a suggestion of how generic this Mark Waters directed piece is. Yes, the man who directed classics like Mean Girls and Mr. Popper’s Penguins has resigned himself to plugging away at Disney projects. Here, we follow a bundle of snot-nosed, suburban living kids as they enter the Institute of Magic, a place that definitely isn’t Hogwarts. Roy Preston (Jeffrey Tambor) invites a group of children to his summer school of magic, and at the end they do a talent show. It’s like every other poorly written, coming-of-age flick. It reminds me of About a Boy, but without a guitar solo and Nicholas Hoult. Still, Hoult was a solid actor in his early days as a performer, but here you have the likes of Hayden Crawford and Nathanial Logan McIntyre. I don’t mean to bully children, but their acting chops aren’t at the great heights of Macauley Culkin or Elijah Wood. I’m sure we can hide their performances behind the poor writing, though, which is underwhelming at the best of times.
Riffing on the far superior series of magic (that Disney cannot name for legal reasons), Magic Camp is truly awful. Even from a technical standpoint, where Disney is usually relatively solid, everything is falling apart at the seams. A generic soundtrack of pop songs that tell us what our characters should be feeling, but there’s something wrong with the audio mixing. DeVine’s role springboards between denouncing magic as ridiculous statistics and trying to defend the mystery of the Magic Circle. Still, magic is for nerds and losers, that seems to be the message of Magic Camp, which makes Penn Jillette and Teller king of the nerds.
I’m fascinated with magic, and the occasional clip on YouTube does make its way into my watch history from time to time, but here we have a huge studio looking to remove the whimsy and beauty of magic and instead apply formulaic cliché to a world of wonder. There are no tricks up Magic Camp’s sleeves, a completely stock, inane time-waster that has nothing of unique interest. No engaging material to be found, nothing that could inspire or entertain even its intended audience. If I could make Adam DeVine disappear and never return, I would. That wouldn’t just make me the world’s greatest magician, it’d also make me a hero of cinema.