In a Nutshell:
Cheesy magic underwater is still cheesy magic.
Penn and Teller, a pair of magicians/comedians, have made a career out
of making fun of cheesy magic while also staging some entertaining effects.
I've been a fan of their work since I accidently stumbled upon their very
first TV special on PBS, Penn and Teller Go Public, way back in
1985. (When will that be released on DVD???) Since then I've
have seen many of their broadcast and cable special, watched them on SNL,
read their books, own both seasons of Bullshit! that have been released
on DVD, and even catch Penn's radio show when I can. I missed this
special when it was first broadcast on NBC, so I was excited when I heard
it was coming out on DVD. After viewing Off the Deep End though,
I was less than impressed. They came up with an idea that just doesn't
work, and more of the segments miss than hit.
For this special, Penn and Teller head down to a resort in the Caribbean,
the Atlantis on Paradise Island, as they mention a couple of times and
show in several helicopter fly overs. They had the idea that if they
were to do some really old dull magic tricks underwater it would be funny!
It turns out that cutting a lady in half is even less impressive underwater
that it is on dry lady. They purposely fill this show with hokey
effects that you can get in any beginner's book of magic, changing the
color of a handkerchief, make a bird appear, etc. Penn tells everyone
that the tricks are a bit dumb, but pointing out that they are much harder
Not only were most of the tricks old, but they were really poorly done.
They apparently didn't have time to practice much, and a few illusions
are flubbed. Penn points these out in his voice over, but just because
he's willing to point out that he knocked out an assistant's air hose during
a trick, doesn't make the trick funny or entertaining.
Like most of their specials, they do show how many, but not all, of
their tricks are accomplished. I've never liked this aspect of their
act, as it cheapens the effects they are doing, but I understand that it's
part of their shtick. They usually wait until after the effect is
completed to revel the secret, but this time a couple of illusions are
reveled as they are performing them, which really destroyed the effect.
I have the feeling that they did this because the effects weren't that
great to begin with. In one they take a ring from a model, put it
into a fish and feed that to a dolphin. The mammal then return the
ring in a water proof container. The use of the container at the
end was a little odd. It didn't fit in with the rest of the trick.
It was as if they couldn't find any way to end the gag and just picked
something. Also, they used a really small fish to conceal the ring
and it was obvious when they switched it since the replacement fish didn't
have a huge bulge in its stomach. I think the only way they could
come up with saving the routine was to reveal it as they went.
For the finale of the show, Penn and Teller vanish a submarine.
This was a good effect, though a clue to how it was done is revealed in
the fact that the didn't make it reappear. The build-up was a little
long, but that's only to be expected. The illusion itself worked
Another big problem with the show though is the way it was edited together.
Originally broadcast on NBC, there are commercial breaks, which is only
to be expected. The problem is that someone apparently didn't think
the show would be able to keep viewer's attention through a commercial
break, so they padded the program with up to a minute of "stay tuned and
see Penn and Teller make a submarine disappear!" promos before each break
(except the very last one.) There were a lot of these interputions
too. Luckily they put a chapter stop right after each interruption
for a commercial, so it's easy to skip past these. Though there aren't
any actual commercials on the disc, one of the advantages of having a show
on DVD is not having to worry about skipping past them. The several minutes
total that this 'stay tuned' crap takes up really feels like a commercial.
The stereo English soundtrack was fine. It was easy to hear Penn's
patter as the pair were doing tricks, and the background noise during the
locations shots wasn't a problem. An average sounding disc, this
unfortunately didn't have subtitles.
The full frame color video was likewise solid. The colors and
detail were fine. The underwater photography was good, with everything
clean and clear. There weren't any digital defects worth mentioning.
A good, if unexceptional presentation.
For bonus items there are about 11 minutes worth of deleted and extended
scenes. The two additional magic bits were nice and should have been
included in the show. In the first one the two prestidigitators take
some sea water and remove the iron, gold, and even the salt from it, and
in the second Penn Jillette moves the tan line from his watch up his arm.
There's also the full magic act that Teller did in the aquarium, and some
behind the scenes shots. I can see why this latter bit was left out.
I like watching Penn and Teller because I enjoy magic and I like to
laugh. This special didn't impress me in either category. Doing
lame magic tricks is just lame, and performing them underwater in a three
piece suit isn't funny. Mildly amusing the first time, but not funny
and definitely not hilarious enough to last the whole show.
There were a few good tricks, Teller did a good Kerskin like cold reading
to determine which of three people were holding a $20 bill.
The ending were Teller pushed Penn into a pool was easy to see coming,
and as cheesy as the magicians they usually make fun of. Overall
this show didn't have the laughs or enough good magic effects to make it
worth while. It pains me to say this, but you should just skip
this disc. Instead, check out either season of Bullshit!