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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Magic Camp is a tween-friendly comedy starring Adam Devine that combines two childhood passions -- magic and camp -- in a story about encouraging kids and adults to work as a team and discover and value their unique talents. The kid characters (and some counselors) arrive at camp with baggage -- absent or deceased parents, a bad attitude, hundreds of allergies, frustrated dreams, etc. -- that make them feel like misfits or losers. But they find strength in each other, and that positive reinforcement promotes resiliency and courage. There's some heavier emotion, particularly in the character of camper Theo (Nathaniel Logan McIntyre), whose loving father passed away. But the film's overall tone is light. Violent content is minimal: Expect minor bullying and comedic incidents brought about while practicing magic tricks, such as getting a foam ball stuck in the throat or falling off a bench while wearing a straitjacket. Sexual content is limited to tween flirtation and a single, end-of-camp good-bye kiss. Language includes kids chanting "K-I-S-S-I-N-G" and taunting each other with insults like "geek," "noob," "nerd," "dweeb," "dork," "dummy," and "lame-O."
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What's the story?
Andy (Adam Devine) is a frustrated magician struggling to make a living as a taxi driver when his old mentor, Preston (Jeffrey Tambor), convinces him to spend the summer as a counselor at MAGIC CAMP. In the offer, Andy sees an opportunity for revenge against his former stage partner and girlfriend, celebrity magician Darkwood (Gillian Jacobs), who is on staff as the counselor of a rival bunk. Their cabins will go up against each other in the annual "Top Hat" magic competition at camp's end. The problem is Andy has been assigned a cabin full of new campers with little or no magic skills. It will be up to him to help them discover their unique talents and find the confidence to share those gifts on stage. Along the way, he may make a few of his own discoveries as well.
Is it any good?
If you like actor Adam Devine, you'll like this movie. Magic Camp feels built around him: he's present in just about every scene and playing to type as the sweet and funny underdog (see his previous roles in Modern Family, Pitch Perfect, and Isn't It Romantic, for example). Devine's unthreatening style of self effacing humor is well-matched for a tween movie. Despite being down on his luck and resentful, his character is ultimately generous and optimistic, and Devine does a good job embodying those contradicting traits.
Magic Camp's storyline is predictable and some of its jokes fall a little flat, so it really is up to the actors to make the journey worthwhile. Jeffrey Tambor is entertaining if a bit subdued as the camp founder and magician-in-chief. The filmmakers did a solid job casting the diverse group of kids, whose stories are used to offer a range of valuable life lessons for younger viewers. Worth highlighting especially are Cole Sand as "mathemagician" Nathan and J.J. (Josie) Totah as Judd, the son of a famous magician whose real passion turns out to be costume design.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the depiction of camp in Magic Camp. Have you been to camp? If so, how does your experience compare? If not, does it make you want to go?
Do you think Andy made the right choices in terms of his career and professional ambitions? Why or why not?
The film talks about the different kinds of magic and shows a few examples, but other tricks aren't explained. Do you think magic is always done through tricks that have a logical explanation? Is magic real?
- On DVD or streaming: August 14, 2020
- Cast: Adam Devine, Jeffrey Tambor, Gillian Jacobs
- Director: Mark Waters
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: September 1, 2020
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