"Fats" is the big daddy of terrifying ventriloquist dummies, wouldn't you say? Magic, however, is a different sort of "killer dummy" film- it's far more a psychological thriller than a cheesy doll horror flick.
Anthony Hopkins plays Corky, an overly-shy, frequently be-sweatered magician who flops and flops until he brings Fats into his act. Fats and Corky bust a move, steadily gaining fame on the club circuit until eventually Corky's agent/manager Ben (Burgess Meredith) comes through with the opportunity o a lifetime: the possibilty of a television series for the man and his wooden pal. Corky freaks out at the idea of a medical exam, however, and flees for the Catskills. He stays at a dead resort run by his high school crush Peggy (Ann-Margret), and while Peggy's husband Duke (Ed Lauter) is away, Peggy and Corky proceed to bust a move. A sexy move. Peggy, trapped in a loveless marriage, decides to run away with Corky- but Fats is one jealous dummy. He wants Corky all to himself, even if that means it's murderin' time!
As I said earlier, Magic is not your typical killer dummy flick and audiences wanting to see Fats run around, knife in hand, may be disappointed. Fats is simply a vessel for the painfully insecure Corky; Fats says the things Corky cannot say, and carries out acts that Corky finds repulsive. As Corky himself says, "Everything is explainable"- and though you want this to be a tale of the supernatural, and you want Fats to be a sentient being, there is no "magic" here, only Corky's mental illness. Will that sad reality make the film a let down? That's entirely up to you. As it stands, Magic is still an effectively creepy movie, and it's one far more complex than a Dolls-style funfest.
The performances really carry the film: Anthony Hopkins is sweet as Corky, though we get frightening glimpses of the turmoil under that sweet exterior. Hopkins also provides the voice of Fats- he learned ventriloquism and delivers Fats's lines in real-time. It's no surprise that Corky still carries a torch for Peggy- I mean, it's Ann friggin' Margret, you know? She's both charming and sad, resigned to a life at an empty resort in the cold, dreary Catskills until Corky and Fats show up with the promise of a new life- though it's really Fats who sweeps her off her feet. And Burgess Meredith rocks the house in this one- his old school rich guy bit was phenomenal, all the way down to pronouncing "girls" as "goils".
Yup, Magic made its way onto my Willies List- honestly, pictures of Fats are enough to earn it a spot, no matter the pay off.