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Magic Magic DVD Review

Magic Magic (2013) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Magic Magic

Video Debut: August 6, 2013 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Sebastián Silva

Cast: Juno Temple (Alicia), Emily Browning (Sara), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Bárbara), Agustín Silva (Agustín), Michael Cera (Brink), Luis Dubó (Bernardo), Roxana Naranjo (Melda), Lorenzo Aillapán (Machi), John Carlos Huenchunao (Héctor), Rayén Aliquintuy (Laurita)

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English/Spanish, Portuguese, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Portuguese, Spanish; Extra Subtitled in English, Portuguese,and Spanish / Not Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99 / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy Magic Magic from Amazon.com: DVDInstant Video

It seemed like a sure thing that Michael Cera would never be cast as anything but the lovable, soft-spoken dork, an archetype he got comfortable with on "Arrested Development" and parlayed into two of 2007's biggest comedies, Superbad and Juno. Cera rode that wave to lesser returns in the teen romcom Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) and the cavemen flop Year One (2009).
In 2010, after stretching himself some in the little-seen Youth in Revolt, Cera mostly played to type in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and though beloved, that comedy lost money. After that, Jesse Eisenberg emerged as the more popular choice to fill such roles and Cera disappeared, only acting in the occasional short and TV voiceover from 2011 to 2012.

This year, despite reprising the role of George-Michael Bluth in Netflix's much-anticipated revival of "Arrested Development", the 25-year-old Canadian actor has sought to reinvent himself. He had fun playing with his nice guy image as a version of himself in the acclaimed summer hit This Is the End. Before that, he turned up in two unlikely places: the comic adventure Crystal Fairy and the thriller Magic Magic, both bilingual Chilean productions from writer/director Sebastián Silva. Each film premiered at January's Sundance Film Festival and while Crystal Fairy received a limited theatrical engagement from IFC last month, Magic Magic goes straight to DVD (with no Blu-ray option) on Tuesday from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Cera's is one of three young faces familiar to Hollywood moviegoers in Magic Magic. Playing far against type, he takes the "And" credit while top billing goes to actresses Juno Temple and Emily Browning.

Michael Cera reveals a new side, playing the sweatered, jocular Brink in "Magic Magic." Alicia (Juno Temple) has second thoughts about making this jump off rocks.

Temple plays Alicia, an American cousin and visitor of Sara (Browning), an expatriate attending college in Santiago. When Sara has to duck out unexpectedly to take an exam, Alicia gets stuck in rustic southern Chile with Sara's boyfriend, aspiring hypnotist Agustín (Agustín Silva, the director's younger brother), his sister Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno), and exchange student Brink (Cera). It is not a fun trip for Alicia. Cell phone service is limited, a dog tries to hump her, and every moment spent around the eccentric, insensitive, jokey Brink is uncomfortable. In addition, Alicia is having trouble sleeping.

More than a sickly puppy abandoned on the side of the road, a stuck CD, and an exotic parrot Brink kills, Alicia's insomnia emerges as the source of her unpleasantness. Barbara gives her sleeping pills, Agustín tries hypnosis, and Sara arrives to offer kinship. But amidst imagined conversations and ambiguous nighttime drama, we begin to suspect that Alicia is losing her mind.

Magic Magic follows up on that thread with a weird ending that defies explanation. Five hours away from the nearest hospital, Alicia's hosts try to get her some more naturalistic medical attention, only to produce a surreal conclusion.

Juno Temple plays Alicia, a young American abroad in Chile for the first time who may be losing her mind in "Magic Magic."

If the name Sebastián Silva is familiar to you, that may be because of The Maid (La Nana), his 2009 Spanish language dramedy that won prizes at Sundance
and proceeded to compete for Foreign Language Film honors at the Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards. Silva's second film is his only one that has reached a wide audience. Its favorable reception appears to have led to Silva writing and directing the quarter-hour HBO digital series "The Boring Life of Jacqueline." It also must have helped attract the trio of accomplished young actors in the foreground of Magic Magic.

Bouncing between Spanish (which even Cera speaks gracefully) and English, the film gets your attention with an intriguing and flavorful premise. It disappointingly loses sight of that as it becomes clear to us that dots will not be connected, nor will sense be made of Alicia's effectively-conveyed state of worsening disorientation. The noncommital final act undoes much of the goodwill that has been generated and leaves us feeling like we've just wasted an hour and a half.

On the plus side, the cast impresses, especially Temple, who's now an old pro at portraying naďfs with convincing American accents, and Cera, who quickly sheds his ample baggage with a bold, layered characterization far removed from the Paulie Bleekers and Scott Pilgrims we know he can appealingly pull off in his sleep. For a good seventy minutes, you want to question why Sony would forgo theatrical release of a competent thriller, but then the final twenty minutes provide your answer, as they are likely to leave viewers frustrated and unsatisfied, lacking even a clue to the title's significance.


The DVD's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty unremarkable, even for standard definition. The film has a very digital video look to it and at times, some of it is deliberately unfocused. The default bilingual Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is adequate but unexceptional. Far more troubling is the use of player-generated subtitles to translate the ample Spanish dialogue. Around halfway in, the default yellow subtitles stopped working for me, requiring me to turn to the third option, English SDH subtitles that translate everything, to understand the foreign dialogue. I suspect it's an isolated incident and not a widespread woe (my player has struggled with subtitles on numerous Fox DVDs), but it still undercut my enjoyment and probably contributed to my disappointment with the end. Portuguese and all-Spanish dubs are included at lower bitrates.

A sweatered Michael Cera listens to writer/director Sebastián Silva in "Making 'Magic Magic.'" The DVD's main menu recycles the cover's head shots, save for Juno Temple, whose is slightly different.


The DVD's one bonus is the "Making Magic Magic" (16:21). This featurette opens with the cast at the airport and unfolds with candid B-roll and upbeat English comments from Silva and his cast.
Interestingly, excerpts from the film have burned-in subtitles, which would have been preferable.

The disc opens with a Blu-ray promo and trailers for Stranger Within, The Kings of Summer, Bless Me, Ultima, BreakOut, and Olympus Has Fallen. The menu's "Previews" listing repeats all of the same. For Magic Magic's own trailer, you'll sadly have to turn to a number of recent Sony discs (and Blu-ray Discs for your only available glimpse at the movie in that format's 1080p high definition).

The static, silent menus employ a design resembling the cover art, which is nearly recreated on the main screen.

The standard black keepcase is not joined by any inserts or slipcover.

Insomniac Alicia (Juno Temple) finds a parrot photograph with an apology under her pillow in "Magic Magic."


Magic Magic seems a film out of left field for its three young Hollywood movie stars. Sebastián Silva's internationally-cast thriller starts strong and unsettles with its tale of an American's first time abroad. But that becomes easy to forget after an exercise of sanity-questioning nonlinearity gives way to a weird ending that fails to connect with what has transcended. The unfortunately unfulfilling ending will leave viewers more sour than the effective first hour deserves, but such is the nature of storytelling. There's still enough of interest here to warrant a look as more than a random curiosity, even if that requires Blu-ray households to return to DVD.

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Reviewed August 3, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Destination Films, Braven Films, Killer Films, Rip Cord Productions, Killer Films, Cine Sur, Chile Films,
and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.