Director: Judd Ehrlich
The image of a career magician has somewhat conflicting connotations in our society. From the faux glamor and extravagance of Vegas staples like David Copperfield and David Blaine, to the depressing depictions of socially awkward teens doing parlor tricks in front of heckling 5-year-olds and Gob Bluth––regardless of their success, they all started somewhere: As magic-obsessed kids. This documentary film follows a group of these kids spending a week of their summer at the annual Tannen's Magic Camp held at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania since 1974. This isn't your typical MTV-influenced, summer camp "reality" doc. There are no rowdy teenagers partying after hours, no underage promiscuity, no tear-streaked monologues––just enthusiastic, talented kids practicing magic tricks. The documentary mainly focuses on the four finalists who win the competition on the first day, spending the week improving their acts with the help of the camp's counselors and instructors in preparation for the final competition at the end of the week. Though a career in magic on the scale of David Copperfield's doesn't seem likely for most of these kids, their passion and dedication to their unique skills and hobbies was really what made this film for me. For better or worse, these kids are confident in who they are, and really worked hard to improve their skills. However, I feel like a documentary should show both sides of the coin, so to speak. I finished the film with a lot of questions: What are these kids' social lives like? What is being a "magician" like when they're not at Magic Camp, surrounded by supporters? Some of them have dropped out of school to become magicians, how do their families and friends feel about it? How does someone become the next David Copperfield? Do the instructors have viable careers as magicians? What advice do they give the kids who want to make a career out of it? As a journalist, these are all questions I would have asked the subjects of the film, and they would have moved Magic Camp to a deeper level than it is now. Overall, the documentary was interesting and entertaining, much like a fun card trick … but it's lacking the real magic balance that could make a film like this great.