Magic Camp (2020): Review

Disney+ launched their latest original film for the streaming service August 14th. The film follows Andy Duckerman (Adam DeVine), a former magician turned banker who returns to his former prestigious magic camp as a counsellor, to mentor and nurture the next wave of aspiring magicians, namely Theo Moses, a 12 year old boy and budding magician struggling to cope with his father’s death.

Let’s be real. Disney are still finding their footing with their slate of ‘original films’, pressure is mounting to rival the likes of streaming titans Netflix and Prime and imperatively, to keep customer subscriptions active. Yes, the library of Disney films and TV shows is healthy but most of these are familiar, older titles we’ve all grown up with and viewed dozens of times since their inception. With blockbuster titles like Mulan and Black Widow, TV shows like WandaVision and The Falcon and Winter Soldier due to release over the next 12 months, there’s plenty to look forward to for fans but as of now, users have received mostly middling quality in terms of original content.

Magic Camp looks to change the status quo with a fun, family friendly formula that’s is sure to please the youngsters and keep the adults comfortably entertained. Adam DeVine does a fantastic job in bringing his bouncy, amiable personality to a role he manages with a believable conviction, I could 100% see him as a struggling magician. Sorry Adam.

So back to the story, we see his character Andy return to magic camp, somewhat unwillingly, and on top of having to whip these young wizards into shape, he’s going to have face his demons, or better yet; demon – Kristina Darkwood (Gillian Jacobs). Kristina Darkwood is also an alumni of The Institute of Magic (camp) and Andy’s fiercest rival but unlike him, she has gone on to garner major success with her solo act on the Vegas strip.

Andy and Kristina make up two of the four cabin counsellors, each of their assigned teams represent a different card suit (heart, spade, club and diamonds). Together with the kids their job is to train and hone the talents of these young magicians, before competing in the end-of-year Top Hat competition, the ultimate recognition of clout and where one gifted youngster will be awarded the coveted Golden Wand. It’s a pretty big deal.

Expect highs and lows as the campers look to refine their fledgling skills. Disney retain all of their signature elements, it’s funny, sometimes hilarious, the kids do a great job embodying a wide range of winning personalities and scenarios. This is very much a family film so bear that in mind by no means is that to say that it is any less enjoyable or entertaining than it has a right to be. There’s plenty of fun to be had here with a core message of grief, friendship, adversity and redemption providing the subtext.

Verdict

Disney+ is finally showing signs of building respectable original content with the arrival of Magic Camp. It has to be noted that the platform is primarily aimed at families and younger audiences but that’s not to say the quality should be any less compared to it’s rival’s more adult orientated offerings. Magic Camp reminds us that no one does it like Disney. There’s a warmth to their movies you just can’t imitate and we get this plus more with Magic Camp. It’s not a classic but it shows they’re on the right track.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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