Totally awesome from start to finish, J. Clay Tweel's documentary about the path to success for a group of teen magicians from around the world, is the stuff dreams are made of. After working as assistant editor on "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" and "Freakonomics," Tweel makes an impressive mark directing a doc that seamlessly puts the viewer into the mindset and personalities of its hard-working subjects. The warmth and honesty translates across cultures. The level of performance skill that the film's six outsiders exhibit at their craft makes you forget about the otherwise nerdy subject at hand. "Make Believe" sets its guaranteed climax around a competition in Las Vegas to be named the World's Best Teen Magician.
In Japan, Hiroki Hara forgoes college in order to practice eight hours a day in a rented theater space where he develops his hand-crafted props. In Littleton, Colorado, 14-year-old Derek McKee polishes his sleight-of-hand act with two local mentors at the magic shop where he works. Krystyn Lambert is a southern California beauty who workshops at LA's famed Magic Castle junior program with an act that makes the most of her natural athleticism. Siphiwe Fangase and Nkumbozo Knonyana are a couple of good-natured teens from Capetown, South Africa with a magic act inspired by soccer. In Chicago, 19-year-old overachiever Bill Koch has entertainment in his blood, passed down from his high-school-symphony-conductor father. "Make Believe" is a touching movie about discipline and the power of illusion to elevate the mundane into the sublime. You'll be amazed.
Rated. 88 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)