Whether its countless delays or a star’s controversial actions, some projects get lost in the anvils of time. Disney’s latest Magic Camp falls into both categories, finally seeing the light of day over two years after its initial release date (Jeffery Tambor’s presence likely played a factor). Unceremoniously dumped onto Disney+, this semi-pleasant title is, for better or worse, an ideal fit as a disposable streaming release.
Magic Camp follows Andy (Adam Devine), a down-on-his-luck former magician who lives in the shadows of his old partner Kristina Darkwood (Gillian Jacobs). In an attempt to regain momentum for his career, Andy returns to his former stomping grounds the Institue of Magic. Along with competing with Kristiana, Andy begins to form bonds with his outcast students, including Theo (Nathaniel McIntyre), a talented young magician looking to find himself after his father’s passing.
Unlike the seriously foul Artemis Fowl, Magic Camp isn’t the outright disaster that its tenuous release would leave you to believe. Adam Devine proves his worth as an affable leading man, dialing back his bold comedic energy soundly while carrying some of the film’s sensitive portions. The young stars, especially Nathaniel McIntyre, are above the standard norms of child actors, coloring their archetype roles without being overly-cutesy. There are also some surprisingly clever jokes scattered throughout, with the script occasionally utilizing its familiar “summer camp” set-up to poke fun through its magic-based lens (I loved the hawk named Ethan Hawke).
Occasionally is the operative word though, as most of the screenplay is stuck in the doldrums of its conventional framework. Cobbled together by six writers, Magic Camp lacks any deviations from your standard family affair, masking its shades of self-awareness with a heaping of tired cliches. Whether its the outcast kids battling the elite bullies or the protagonist child dealing with the passing of his dad (seriously Disney, why so many dead dads), audiences are likely to be hit by a wave of deja vu throughout the film. It’s also a pity to watch talented supporting players straddled with thankless roles, with this likely being a forgotten paycheck for Gillian Jacobs and Aldis Hodge.
The lingering sense of familiarity could be forgiven if there was a semblance of personality on display, yet Magic Camp encapsulates a bland flavor throughout. Mark Waters directs the film on autopilot, never finding a lively way to engage with the film’s magical set-up or well-suited cast. Matching these flat visuals, the character work is defined by simplistic traits, drowning any emotional moments in a mawkish array of score and heavy-handedness. There seems to be a nucleus of fun buried beneath the blandness, although Disney seems more interested in filling their quota of marketable family products.
Equally inoffensive and unremarkable, Magic Camp is likely to vanish amongst the plethora of superior Disney+ titles.
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