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1 rating: 1.0
A movie directed by Richard Attenborough

A troubled nightclub performer is intimidated by his all-too-human dummy. The almost demonic puppet has an increasingly profound effect on the lives of the individuals with whom it comes into contact.

Cast: Ed Lauter
Release Date: 1978
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Magic

Magic - 1978

  • Aug 2, 2008
Pros: decent cast, good dummy

Cons: overused premise

The Bottom Line: "Comeon home, girl he_said with a smile
I cast my spell of love on you a woman_from a_child!
But try_to_understand, try_to_understand
Im a magic man!
~ Heart ♥ ♥

It is a bit difficult to equate the actor in this movie with the same person that would do something like, say, Hamlet. It was fairly early in his career yet Anthony Hopkins doesn’t mind stepping into the dark side a little, well before he heard some lambs screaming.

In Magic, Hopkins plays the part of a rather inept magician. In fact, his magic is so deplorable it is almost humoristic. With that in mind, he develops an alter character in the guise of a dummy known as Fats. With Fats he can be as outspoken and even playful as he wishes he could be in real life. The fact that he lives vicariously through this pile of sawdust is the true horror of the movie, not the resulting factors.

As Corky Withers, Hopkins is rather boring. Not him personally, the character of Withers is boring. His subtle attempts at humor and magic are pitiful to behold. He longs for the bright lights and big city that he believes is right around the next corner for him and when he drags old Fats into the equation, those goals are possible. However, Fats has an agenda of his own, or so we are led to believe. A chance encounter with an executive mucky-muck affords Withers and Fats the opportunity they have strived for all their pitiful lives.

However the bright lights and big city aren’t exactly what Withers expected and he takes a little detour on life. He ends up in what we are to believe is an out of the way, out of season, fishing camp at the end of nowhere. The camp is run by a rather strange couple, with ties to Withers past as it turns out. Of course, this was all contrived by Withers, or was it Fats?

Ann Margret has a small part of Peggy Ann Snow, who runs the fishing camp. Peggy Ann is a lost yearning for Withers, someone he dreamed of all through high school as that unobtainable model of perfection he could never touch. Turns out she marries some unappreciative lowlife, who also went to school with Withers, that is seldom home and, when there, abusive and neglectful of his prom queen wife. Withers takes advantage of hubbys absence and finally beds his lady fair, but not without consequences.

All the while, Fats sits brooding in the corner, growing ever more jealous of the fame and fortune Withers has obtained. Add to the mix, he now has designs on a future with Peggy Ann. One that doesn’t include Fats. Not going to be pretty folks, not pretty at all.

Like clowns, evil plotting dolls seem to pique the interest of the viewing public. I’ve never totally understood that clown fear thing, but a lot of people seem to possess it, or it possesses them. Anyway, if you can toss in an evil doll apparition then you have something to work with. Naturally, since this doll is simply a prop, not real or able to work without a human attachment, this is supposed to be the evil part.

Obviously someone has to have sailed away from their mental harbor to ‘become the doll’, as it were. Withers, unable to function in the world without his alter ego, becomes enslaved to the idea of Fats. In fact, in one scene, his agent, Ben Greene, [played by Burgess Meredith] dares him to go five minutes without dropping into ‘Fats’ mode and speaking through the dummy. Naturally, Withers thinks Greene is insane, takes the dare, and we watch him quietly melt away. He can’t talk in normal conversation more than two minutes before he dissolves.

Director Richard Attenborough used darkness and subterfuge to make the Fats character seem more believable, almost human. They built the darn thing to resemble Hopkins’ features so closely that Hopkins insisted the dummy not be in his sight when not filming. Of course, evil dolls aren’t all that unusual so the premise of the movie is rather washed out, for me anyway.

Some of the acting seemed highly cheesy, but, then again, that could reflect the times. Ann-Margret had a small and insignificant part, appearing fairly unattractive actually. One wondered what the draw for Withers was, when viewing her, but his were memories of times gone by and not her current situation. Burgess Meredith gave a really decent performance, reflective of a caring friend, beyond the agent part. David Ogden Stiers also wanders through the movie as the television promoter or some such. Small part actually, but this is an old movie.

Then there is Hopkins, who did the dual performance of Withers and Fats. One would like to believe he simply had fun making this movie with its combined humor and darkness. Like I stated, he didn’t care for the dummy and avoided it when not forced to be in its presence. Perhaps his own fear of clowns and life like evil dolls came into play here, I don’t know. Or perhaps he has his own hidden, dark, side that the character of Fats pulled out of him and it frightened him to confront the vision. Either way, he put forth a decent but not remarkable performance.

Surprisingly, Magic was well received in the awards venue. Overall, 6 nominations and 2 awards for this fairly forgotten movie. It was written for the screen by William Goldman, adapted from his novel.

Overall impression
While not a complete bust, I still wouldn’t go out of my way to seek this movie out again. Good performances by the lead characters gave it an edge but the story is old, tired, and entirely overworked. I liked the fact that they fashioned the doll to look like Hopkins, giving it an edgier appearance, much like the alter character that lived inside Withers would assume. A fairly decent, older, movie. If you run across it, watch it, but I wouldn’t put forth any great effort unless you are total fans of any of these actors.



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