Desperate Acts of Magic (2013) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for language and sexual references
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Joe Tyler Gold, Valerie Dillman, Jonathan Levit, Sascha Alexander, John Getz
Director: Tammy Caplan, Joe Tyler Gold
Screenplay: Joe Tyler Gold
Review published November 16, 2013
Joe Tyler Gold (Never Say Macbeth, Petrol), a former professional and birthday party magician himself, writes, co-directs, co-produces and stars as Jason, a struggling Los Angeles-based magician who loses his day job, but thinks he can get a leg up in his side profession if he can win an esteemed magic competition. He comes up with an angle that should set him apart from the pack, which is to have an on-stage assistant with whom he has a mock public spat with, while he is performing his act, that will entertain the crowd above and beyond the mere sleight-of-hand theatrics. The actress he has chosen (Alexander, Married in a Year) to fill the role is a magic groupie who decides to make a play for him for real, and he goes along with it, yet he can't help but continue to have eyes for Stacy (Dillman, Fracture), an fiery fellow magician (and sometimes con artist) whom he has offended by suggesting she settle for less than main-star status because she is a female.
This low-budget indie comedy offers a good deal to like -- a likeable cast of mostly novice actors (but real-life magicians), an interesting hook, amusing dialogue, and examples of magic that aren't full of cinematic cheats and CGI (the meager budget wouldn't allow for it anyway) -- but only offers modest enjoyment due to its amateur-hour direction and sometimes awkward camera work that mar the ever-crucial timing of the comedy to its detriment. The film marks the debut filmmaking work for Gold and his co-director/co-producer Caplan, and while they give it a valiant effort, the movie could definitely have benefited from surer hands behind the camera.
Desperate Acts of Magic is light and innocuous enough to forgive a good deal of the cheap production values and lack of film experience from most involved, but it's one of those films that I just can't give a recommendation to because of the borderline-inept way it is presented. Lovers of any of the performers, or of just the trade of magic in general, will likely be more forgiving, and may come away liking the film, but general moviegoers should be warned not to expect much more than a quality amateur-ish work here. Perhaps movie magic will be made the next time around.
©2013 Vince Leo