As the guillotine blade hovered over the neck of the magicians’ assistant moments after Harry Kane–now holding the rope–witnessed her cheating on him with his co-star Karl Allen, I thought If a movie opened with a magician decapitating his wife in front of a live audience, it would be the greatest film opening ever, but Mitchell and Webb aren’t ballsy enough to attempt it. Wrong. More films should begin with David Mitchell cutting off someone’s head.
Magicians is the story of two former magic partners struggling to maintain their careers after what was declared a freak accident. After four years apart, they decide to reunite in order to win a magic competition, a pairing “like Israel and Palestine entering a magic competition together,” and a story the host (Peter Capaldi) hopes will make the papers. (Yes, Capaldi is playing the foul-mouthed Capaldi we all love.) They meet in the audition room where Harry (Mitchell) pulls a gun on Karl (Webb), announcing they will do the bullet-catch trick. Convinced he’s trying to get revenge, Karl declares they’ll now enter the competition as separate solo acts. The contest becomes more about their rivalry than winning the money. Meanwhile, both Karl’s stalker and his agent Otto (Darren Boyd) confess their love to him, while Harry struggles to figure out whether he likes his assistant Linda (Jessica Hynes/Stevenson) as much as she likes him.
Magicians did not get critical acclaim when it came out in 2007, and it’s true you won’t be rolling on the floor, losing control of your gastro muscles, shitting yourself laughing, but in Mitchell’s memoir, Back Story, he stands by it as a good film, and he’s right to do so. The script is the perfect length, with standard story structure, and includes plenty of surprises. Whether it’s Harry trying to pee on Karl’s head while he’s buried to his chin in the sand, Karl screaming “Courteney Cox Courteney Cox Courteney Cox!” in a pitch meeting, or Linda break-dancing to “I want to take you to a gay bar,” there’s no part of this movie that isn’t enjoyable.
If you didn’t like Magicians, you can go over here and sympathize with That Guy.