“Don’t ask how they do it, ask why?”
Director: Andrew O’Connor
Cast: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Sarah Hadland
Synopsis: A pair of rivaling stage magicians are forced to confront their falling out over a guillotine mishap when they compete in a magic competition.
With Magicians, TV comics David Mitchell & Robert Webb follow the treacherous path to Movieland on which many a predecessor has come unstuck (from Morecambe and Wise to Cannon & Ball to Smith & Jones to Ant & Dec) with, it has to be said, more success than those who have gone before. Of course, that’s like saying Police Academy 1 is better than Police Academy 2, but Mitchell & Webb have to be given credit for delivering a reasonably entertaining comedy which nevertheless fails to have any real laugh-out-loud moments.
The duo play a magical act which is abruptly terminated following the accidental death of one’s wife during a guillotine trick after the discovery of his showbiz partner’s infidelity with his marriage partner. Hard times follow for both magicians so they reluctantly agree to reunite in order to win a £20,000 competition. The story follows a familiar path, relying mostly on the quirkiness of its characters to provide momentum. For the most part it works reasonably well, and it is probably the secondary characters, such as Karl’s manager (Darren Boyd, whose character harbours a gay crush on his act) and the arrogant rival magician (Peter Capaldi) who is undeterred by the crudeness of his chat-up line on the basis that the law of averages says he got to strike lucky sooner or later, who get the best moments.
The running time is fairly short, which is just as well, because things get a little laboured as it approaches its climax and, like the character’s response to the final trick, we end up breathing a sigh of relief that everything has turned out reasonably OK in the end.