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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 1 out of 5

WHY is it that so many talented British TV-based comedians fail to realise their potential on the big screen?

Of late, we’ve had Ricky Gervais bumbling his way through Night At The Museum, Martin Freeman let down by The All Together, Rowan Atkinson slumming it in Mr Bean’s Holiday and Ant and Dec plodding along in the distinctly average Alien Autopsy.

The latest to follow in their footsteps are Peep Show duo Mitchell and Webb whose big screen debut Magicians is another painfully unfunny misfire for British cinema.

The duo star as lifelong friends Harry (David Mitchell) and Karl (Robert Webb) whose successful magic act goes spectacularly wrong once Harry finds out Karl is having an affair with his wife and then accidentally chops off her head during their latest show.

Forced to split and make a living through mundane jobs, the pair are tempted back by a magic competition and attempt to reconcile their differences. But while they initially enter the competition together, it’s not long before they end up competing as rivals…

There’s plenty of comic potential in Andrew O’Connor’s film despite obvious comparisons with more serious fare such as The Prestige. But some awkward direction and another woeful script (from Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain) quickly dispel any goodwill audiences might have towards it.

What’s more, Mitchell and Webb’s shortcomings as actors are ruthlessly exposed as neither is capable of conjuring the type of performance needed to paper over the cracks.

Instead, viewers are faced with another barrage of crass, obvious jokes and painfully predictable set pieces that add up to a painfully laboured experience.

Die-hard Mitchell and Webb fans may muster a couple of smiles at some of the more familiar gags that stem from their contrasting personas but on the whole this is yet another British comedy that begs the question, “what were they thinking?”

It’ll be a neat trick for the comedy duo to persuade people they’d want to rush out and see any future cinematic offerings…

Certificate: 15
Running time: 90mins