“Make Believe”: Doc on Teen Magicians Has Old-School Charm

A kiddie competition doc centered on the world of junior magicians, Make Believe pairs a newly entrenched formula with old-fashioned, artisanal illusion. Director J. Clay Tweel found six teenagers who dream of being named the Teen World Champion at the annual magic seminar in Las Vegas. If they are not the last six teenagers on Earth interested in such an honor, theirs is a rare breed, at any rate. Time is spent with each of the kids on their home turf, including Krysten Lambert, an intensely mannered blond from Malibu, and Hiroki Hara, the requisite Japanese ringer. Hiroki, a shy kid with razored hair and a ska-core wardrobe that clashes with his lush, countryside surroundings, is the most fun to watch. The loneliness of his long-distance quest is contrasted with Lambert's dedicated but officious climb to the top. Already a member of L.A.'s exclusive Magic Castle club, Lambert gets the kind of mentoring —”You could be a real star,” she's told by lady magician emeritus Diana Zimmerman, “like Britney Spears!” — that has turned many a young woman's head. The drama is merely serviceable until the last moment, when the winner makes the competition disappear.

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