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Magic Magic

It could use some, use some

Rod Lott August 15th, 2013

Michael Cera … scary? It's one of the last adjectives I'd apply to Arrested Development's poster child of awkward pauses, yet in the odd thriller Magic Magic, the vibe he exudes is nothing if not uncomfortably creepy. Give him credit for not playing another Indie Mopey Hoodie Boy.

While you're at it, give Magic Magic credit for being something different, even if it ultimately proves a disappointment. Written and directed by one Sebastián Silva, the Chilean-set chiller sends Alicia (Juno Temple, Killer Joe) on her first trip outside the United States. She joins cousin Sarah (Emily Browning, Sucker Punch) and a few of Sarah's friends on a trip to a South American island home. 

Among them is Brink (Cera, This Is the End), an exchange student who acts so strangely, Sarah classifies his behavior as "retarded." Not long after arriving at their destination, Sarah is called away for a day for a college exam — or so she says — leaving Alicia without her safety net. 

With the group's obsession with animals (both in harm and horny), alcohol and the art of hypnosis, Alicia increasingly feels in danger from these "sadists." 

The viewer will feel it, too, as Silva does his best visually and aurally to provoke a cinematic panic attack. He comes close, but the turn he takes in the film's final 20 minutes is like grabbing for air: futile. The ending plays more like Silva giving up after writing himself into a corner than it does a logical conclusion. 

Magic, not quite; bilingual mumblecore, closer. —Rod Lott

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