Andrew O’Connor | 84 mins | TV | 16:9 | UK / English | 15
David Mitchell and Robert Webb move from the small screen to the big one in this comedy from the writers of their sitcom Peep Show. Perhaps I should say now, I’ve seen one episode of Peep Show and I didn’t much care for it.
Magicians, however, is fine. If you like people saying rude words, particularly in relation to sexual activities, then you’ll find lots to laugh at here. If you don’t like that kind of thing, there’ll be lots to cringe at. If you don’t mind it… well, you won’t mind it. There are other funny bits, mind. None of it’s particularly big or clever, but it elicited laughs regularly enough to keep it entertaining.
It’s biggest mistake is in casting Mitchell and Webb as two people who’ve fallen out, meaning they spend most of the film apart. They’re funny individually, and they’re each paired off with a more than capable comedy sidekick — Jessica Hynes and Darren Boyd respectively — but as this is kind of pitched as The Mitchell & Webb Movie, it’s a little disappointing and doesn’t make the most of their talents.
That said, while I like Mitchell and Webb, I don’t think their main strength lies in acting. I love their sketch show, which, yes, is acting, but it’s a very different kind of acting; and, of course, Mitchell seems to do very well for himself on the panel show circuit, while Webb is adept at dancing sillily and, increasingly, hosting / voice-overing quickly-made cheap rubbish for various channels. These are all skills in their own way, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate brilliant acting. But, hey, they’re fine here.
The supporting cast is made up of a host of recognisable TV faces. I’d list them, but we’ll be here all day. However, if you watch a lot of British TV, especially comedy, you’ll be almost constantly going, “ooh, it’s him/her!” This has only been made more apparent by time: as the film’s now four years old, even more supporting faces have risen (however slightly) up the comedy hierarchy. For just one example, there are brief appearances by Miranda Hart and Sarah Hadland of hit BBC sitcom Miranda, which hadn’t begun when Magicians was released. I suppose retrospectively these small roles could be described as cameos, but they don’t play that way.
If you enjoy lewd humour, or can survive it in frequent brief bursts, then I’d say Magicians is fine. Probably best enjoyed late on a Friday or a Saturday when you really don’t want your brain to be taxed. Or even bothered.