It’s a kind of magic

Magicians is down-beat, pathetic, slow and so gloriously English I wanted to stand up and salute right there in the cinema aisle.

We the English are known for several unique things; thinking that any crisis situation can be handled with tea, obediently queuing up for things, and our unflagging sense of humour. And let’s face it, the first two aren’t really anything we should be too proud about.

During the fifties and sixties we had our own brandy of “zany” comedy most often referred to as a “romp”, these normally included vicars’, un-subtle innuendos and people dashing from one room to another. The seventies brought sit-coms where once again we dominated the planet with an embarrassment of riches from the sublime Fawlty Towers to the mildly racist Allo Allo. The oppressive brashness of the boom or bust culture in the eighties brought the birth of the stand up comic and with an oppressive western government seemingly hell bent on destroying the world, alternative comedy the only voice of dissent, albeit a disgusting irreverent one that talked about sick and bogeys.

Recently a new form of comedy has developed, it’s a comedy of awkwardness, of human flaws, painful embarrassment and understated absurdity, in a word; English. This film is a continuation and a wonderful example of this.

The plot follows two childhood friends and ex-magic double act as they compete in the Magicians Shield in the Isle of Wight. Mitchell (PC in there morally dubious series of Mac advertisements) plays Harry, who seems to represent a specific traditional aspect of the English male; he is repressed, over rationalising, unadventurous and awkward with emotions. Webb (Mac) plays Karl, a more recent incarnation but equally flawed aspect of the male psyche, he is gullible, slightly self obsessed, and media saturated, a Yin and Yang of dysfunctional friendship. Basically the same characters from the Peep Show, which isn’t surprising as the filmed is penned by the same writers, which is a relief to anyone watched Mitchell and Webb’s sketch show which we all know was crap.

If there are any criticisms to be made, it can be said that it’s a bit unadventurous and does read like and hour and a half of television, but in its defense I can’t imagine the budget being too spectacular and the type of humour relies on the downbeat nature of the film. When the laughs do come they are bark-out-loud-embarrass-your-girlfriend big which may get you into a little trouble when said girlfriend chastises you outside.

Darren Boyd is excellent as the pushy agent and some of the best moments of the film come from the unrequited gay love he has for Karl, where as Jessica Stevenson is adequate as Harry’s love interest Linda making best out of an underwritten role.

It’s a traditional slow paced, English movie that manages to balance bathos and pathos excellently. A little thin in places, but with some unforgettable lines and we all know how us students like to endless repeat those to each other.

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