Since it launched worldwide Disney + has developed a reputation as the media empires dumping ground. Outside of The Mandalorian, Hamilton and few other exceptions it’s where the product they Disney doesn’t want general audiences to see gets rebranded as streaming exclusive and sent out to die. Magic Camp to be a prime example of this. Having sat on the shelf for two years a trailer was unceremoniously released five days before it launched. The trailer did not inspire a great deal of hope making it look like a corny School of Rock knock off from 15 years ago. This is despite proof that leads Adam Devine and Gillian Jacobs can be great in other things (the first two Pitch Perfect entries sand Community, respectively.) Was the film as bad as the warning signs suggested?
Yes and no. Magic Camp might be aggressively dull and unbelievably formulaic but it’s also harmless. The immediate comparison based on the trailer might be to the recent wave or family films that look like they escaped from a 2005 time vortex (looking at you Playing With Fire and My Spy.) This is a fair comparison to a certain extent Especially with the narrative structure (Devine’s washed up magician tutors a group of children at the eponymous camp and rekindles his long rivalry with Jacobs) and Devine channelling his best Jack Black impression. The more accurate point of reference might be to the family films of the very early 2010s where technology was just starting to take a serious foothold in all ages entertainment but filmmaker’s hasn’t quite caught up (although the wheels were just starting to set in motion. in 2020 it’s incredibly unrealistic to think that kids would be entertained by going to summer camp held by magicians but overall the screenplay doesn’t feel as obviously propelled in from an entirely different era in the same way as the previous examples. There are a few mild chuckles throughout but nothing worth getting excited about. Critically though it is never patience testing in it blending of School of Rock and a lost Diary of a Wimpy Kid sequel. The greatest crime the film commits is simply being boring. it’s easy to see why this was shuffled off quietly to streaming. Not because Disney are trying to hide a once in a decade embarrassment like Artemis Fowl but because this kind of film is an incredibly hard sell to see theatrically (aside from die hard watches like this reviewer who are willing to give anything a try)and would have likely been a big flop .
Magic Camp is far from the worst Disney + original when Artemis Fowl exists.it has a couple of passingly funny moments and is generally very inoffensive despite taking all its ideas from better films in the family entertainment genre. It is not hard why films like this or unceremoniously packaged as with subscription streaming exclusives. No studio worth their salt (even one connected to the biggest media empire in the world) making significant money on the type of family film that had its last gasp of brief popularity 5-8 years ago.