Directed by Sam Irvin
Expectations: Magic on an island.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
Going into a Moonbeam film, I’ve come to expect a few elements to almost always be present. Things like a trip back in time, a castle, and a kid with an absent or neglectful family, an obsession, and a desire to runaway. I didn’t actively think about these aspects when I started Magic Island, but they’re always hovering somewhere in mind whenever Moonbeam films come up. But get this… Magic Island breaks the mold! There isn’t a castle! It’s not even set in medieval times!
Magic Island is the story of Jack Carlisle (Zachery Ty Bryan of Home Improvement fame), a kid who loves video games, pirates and hard rock. His mother is a professional businesswoman up for a big promotion and all the money that goes with it. Jack isn’t impressed, because even though he’s 13 and he acts like he doesn’t care, it’s pretty plain that he’s lonely and in need of some parental attention and affection. Jack decides he’s had enough, so in preparation for running away he packs a bag with little more than some Rhino Bucket CDs and a Super Soaker. Only the essentials! His Haitian nanny (Ja’net DuBois) persuades him to stay home and have some of her jambalaya instead, also gifting him with a book called Magic Island that quickly sucks him inside its world of pirates and buried treasure.
Director Sam Irvin does his best to liven the film up as much as he can with clever angles and a lot of well-used moving camera. It helps the film from getting too stale, but without any real narrative content to back it up, it doesn’t necessarily serve any purpose. The story arc with Jack and his mother is only really engaged during the bookending scenes, too, so everything in the middle is just a series of pirate cliches strung together to form a meaningless adventure that should be fun but isn’t. Regardless, though, Irvin must be commended for at least making Full Moon films — he also directed Oblivion and its sequel — that were different from the tons of other stuff the studio cranked out.
As a kid I used to look at a closed book on a shelf and marvel at how this small block of paper contained entire worlds and characters so rich that I felt like I actually knew them. A similar idea is at the heart of Magic Island, and while they never really engage it directly, I respect that the idea is here if someone wants to pick up on it for themselves. Books are a wonderful way to escape, while also learning about yourself and the world you live in, and the hopeful part of me would like to think that a few kids started reading and discovering the world because of this movie.
I’ll leave you with my favorite line from the film, when Jack first arrives on Magic Island and meets the good guys.
“We are Buccaneers.”
“To me, you kinda look like a grunge band.”
Huh? Did I miss something, or did grunge bands dress in ruffled, pirate shirts? Hahahaha. 🙂
Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching the 2002 film Groom Lake, starring and directed by William Shatner! I’ve been holding back on this one a while, so I hope it lives up to my personal hype. See ya then!