Za majikku awâ (The Magic Hour) (2008)
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Critic Reviews for Za majikku awâ (The Magic Hour)
Audience Reviews for Za majikku awâ (The Magic Hour)
Quite funny in a way for those in-jokes within the film industry. But once again, its overlong length was one big drawback, to me, at least.
"The Magic Hour" knows very well how to pull off the classic comedic misunderstanding. Its plot is the kind of thing where the audience knows full well what's going on, but when the characters interact they each interpret conversations and events wrongly. The situation escalates, with one character always thinking they're talking about A and the other always thinking they're talking about B, and the longer it goes on the more ridiculous and the more hilarious it gets. Ridiculous, of course, because if either character would at any time just spell out what they're talking about, it would all be cleared up and the movie would be over. That can't happen until the end, when things have gotten as crazy as the screenwriter can make them. It's a formula that's been used in sitcom episodes and movies for a long time, and "The Magic Hour" is a movie that knows and respects entertainment history. It is funny and emotional in all the right places. If it is predictable, the advantage of that is that audiences know what to do with it. Surely one of the first things you have to do to enjoy a movie like this is to toss any expectations of realism out the window. The best scene in "The Magic Hour" involves an elaborate showdown with a Thai street gang featuring an arms sale, a hidden assassin, and a suitcase full of fake money. It all goes wrong in a way that would surely lead to the characters figuring out that nothing is what they think it is, but of course we cut to the next scene without anyone having faced the seemingly inevitable moment of realization. That's fine, the rules are different in a comedy like this. That's why it's a bit of a problem that "The Magic Hour" seems to compulsively poke at its own plot holes. When the movie starts, it initially appears to be set during the 1920s, to judge from the cars, clothes, hairstyles, buildings, and general atmosphere. But this is misdirection, and within minutes the movie seems to have decided that is set more or less in the present. The town just so happens to look like an old movie set, and its residents just happen to dress the part-an odd quirk, but it helps set a certain tone. The problem is, the movie doesn't leave it at that. Chronology keeps playing a niggling role. The movie borrows the styles and tropes of noir to characterize its heavy and its femme fatale, but it repeatedly steps back to examine that era of entertainment as a thing of the past. One of the characters is obsessed with a "Casablanca"-like film whose Bogart figure is seen years later as a very old man. At the same time, a struggling actor seems to act in nothing but black and white gangster movies. It's not confusing, but it's hard not to be distracted by the fact that half of the characters seem to be living in a different time period than the other half. There are some additional logical inconsistencies, most of which revolve around the out-of-time, out-of-place femme fatale (Eri Fukatsu), that I felt I was expected to ignore and was happily doing so until the movie itself to bring them up without providing any real explanations. Why doesn't she just skip town? I wondered at the beginning. Why don't we just skip town? she asks much, much later. The run-time is so long that I'd forgotten my quibble until it was brought to the fore in a late attempt to manufacture an arc for the underdeveloped female lead. The actors, especially Toshiyuki Nishida as a mob boss and Koichi Sato as the struggling actor, manage to pull off the film's various conceits better than the script does, and are often hilarious in their exaggerated roles. The object of a comedy of misunderstandings, after all, is to enjoy a series of funny misunderstandings, and "The Magic Hour" provides plenty of them.
Koki Mitani's The Magic Hour may be a bit too long for its tastes, but it certainly has its own style.
While spanning nearly 2 hours and 10 minutes, this picture's story is written with a sense of intelligence. The humor is subtle, yet effective, although there is room for more considering this is primarily viewed upon as a comedy. With that said, aside from the film getting more serious and dramatic near the end, the plot contains a consistent level of amusement.
The setting looks like it's straight out of a movie studio, but as mentioned earlier, the story is cleverly written in a way where this actually works out. The costumes and even the background music all piece together nicely as well.
Koichi Sato puts on quite the performance and the film wouldn't have been the same without him or his character. Eri Fukatsu and Satoshi Tsumabuki get some well deserved screen time. The lovely Haruka Ayase is highly under utilized, but shines with what time is allotted for her.
The Magic Hour and its light-hearted nature give it a recommendable status for a Japanese comedy.
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