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Make Believe could have easily been called Make Magic because this entertaining documentary shows the preparations teens go through to make it to the World Magic Show competition in Las Vegas for the title of Teen World Champion.
Unlike most documentaries about young people such as spelling bee or ballet, this one relies less on the suffering and anxieties and more on the effort to develop unique acts, as original as possible while inevitably relying on some chestnuts which are the foundation of so much illusion.
The few young magicians chosen to be featured before the competition are almost all in the final eight, a tribute to the officials of the competition who could spy winners beforehand and to the filmmakers, who, like most excellent documentarians of these competitions, are uncanny at guessing finalists before they compete. Perhaps an analogy can be made to scouts for collegiate and professional teams—they know their business.
The two strongest competitors, Krystin Lambert and Bill Koch, are confident and charismatic, she with an all American blond beauty and he with a big smile and an attitude whose mantra is "excellence." The latter is so dedicated to magic that he forsakes a music scholarship to work at his craft and compete in the world competition.
Make Believe features the two Meccas of magic, Las Vegas and LA's Magic Castle. Teens like Krystn regularly attend classes at the exclusive club, one of the most difficult to become a member in (I know because a former son-in-law is a longstanding member and a fine magician as well as a national radio personality).
The Magic Castle can easily serve as a metaphor for the difficulty of becoming a respected magician, a notion reinforced by this amiable and insightful documentary that shows most of all the long hours of creation, preparation, and practice going into being recognized as a magician.
This magic business is not so much about making believe as it is about making magic.
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