Saturday, October 22, 2016

Recap: Goosebumps "Bad Hare Day"

Because R.L. Stine already used up the chance to call it "My Hare-iest Adventure." So it was either "Bad Hare Day" or "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow." Because rabbits naturally lend themselves to puns. I mean, look at the titles of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons.

"All This and Carrot Stew"

"The Hare-Brained Hypnotist"

"Tortoise Wins by a Hare"

"Hare Force"

"Hare Tonic"

"Hare Remover"

"Hare Do"

I could go on and on, but you probably don't carrot all, so let's get started with the episode.

Heh. Couldn't resist.
The episode begins with a girl leaving a magic shop. Don't expect to see her ever again, because she bikes away, leaving us with our actual protagonist, Tim Swanson (Dov Tiefenbach). Tim is out with his black best friend Foz, who will be leaving the story almost as fast as no-name-girl.

Tim wants to be a magician, so he's begging his friend, the unlikely-named Foz, to pick a card.

Foz: "What you need is some new tricks. Like Amaz-O."

Amazo? That hack.

He just copies Zatanna's powers. Big whoop.
Foz: "If you had some of his tricks, you could be the Great Timothini."

So Tim whips out what little cash he has and walks inside the magic shop, where Goosebumps delivers us another in the way of creepy shop owners. Unlike the guy from "The Haunted Mask," this guy seems quite cheerful and pleased to see these kids. The kids, however, are more interested in the latest magic tricks the store owner, Mr. Malik, got from Amaz-O himself earlier today. Because world-class magicians routinely sell their tricks to rinky-dink small town magic shops...?

Tim prepares to shove his best friend in a box and stick swords in the sides, but Mr. Malik discourages him.

Mr. Malik: "You can't just walk up to an illusion and start playing around. Ya gotta practice."
Tim: "Well, I was just gonna show Foz."
Mr. Malik: "Oh, I've got something to show you. Come on over here."

...I'm not touching that line.

Mr. Malik shows off his guillotine to the boys and shows them how it works with a banana.

...I'm not touching that, either.

With the banana split (pun somewhat intended), he reaches through the choppy bit with his hand and asks Tim to move the lever to lock the blade in place.

Mr. Malik: "No not that one!"

The blade comes down and "slices" his hand off, scaring the kids good until Mr. Malik shows them that his hand is still attached. This reminds me of the time my science teacher pretended to freeze his thumb in liquid nitrogen and shatter it with a hammer. Why, yes, he did use a hot dog in a glove.

Actually... wait, let's take a closer look at this trick.

Okay, his hand is on the chopping block...
The blade comes down....
And his hand suddenly disappears.
At no point do we ever see the blade "going through" his hand. And the hole for his hand has a solid blade showing through instead of a prop one. So for all intents and purposes, it looks like all he did was move his hand away from an actual guillotine while the kids weren't looking.

This episode fails at magic already. They can't even fake it properly with TV editing tricks.

But Tim likes the trick so much that he offers to buy it.

Mr. Malick: "Two-fifty."
Tim: "Two-fifty? Really?"
Mr. Malik: "Two hundred and fifty, brainzo."
Tim: "I'll never be able to afford any good tricks."

Because magic is all about forking over cold hard cash for a machine that does everything for you, rather than spending years practicing sleight-of-hand and misdirection.

Mr. Malik, to cheer the kid up, does some of that worthless sleight-of-hand to materialize a couple of free tickets from behind Tim's ear. Tickets to Amaz-O's performance tonight, no less.

So... despite Amaz-O being repeatedly singled out in both the book and the episode as the greatest magician alive, things just don't add up. We'll see more evidence of this as the episode goes on, but I think the real example is right here.

Mr. Malik is charging $250 for a stock guillotine trick, but is perfectly willing to hand out a couple tickets to see "the greatest magician ever" for free? It's possible that Amaz-O himself gave these tickets to Mr. Malik, but... well, let's judge Amaz-O by his act. That is, if these two actually end up going to see the show.

Foz: "Not me. It doesn't start 'til ten o'clock!"

That's actually pretty late. To compare, I looked up showtimes for Criss Angel in Las Vegas, and his shows start at 9:30 at the latest. Judging by the 7:00 showtime on the same days, I'd wager that his show is about two hours long with half an hour to reset. This would mean that his show ends at 11:30. Pretty late, but still technically today. If Amaz-O's show goes by a similar time frame, it won't get out until midnight, which is technically tomorrow. A difference of only half an hour, but a fairly important one.

This implies that Amaz-O's show is not for all ages, since ain't nobody wants to deal with sleepy kids the night of the show OR the next morning. That would then imply that this magic show is primarily aimed at an adult audience. So... is this some kind of adult magic show, like Mystic Mister XXX?

At least Mr. Triple X actually used real magic. Wait 'til you see what Amaz-O gives us.
No, that's a pretty big leap of logic. I'd need more evidence before I could reasonably assume that this is an R-rated magic show.

Anyway, Foz points out that the show's lateness means that Tim would have to be very lucky to even get out of the house. And we cut to him sneaking downstairs after bedtime, only to be caught by his little sister, Ginny (Tabitha Lupien). He lies about heading to the garage to practice a new trick, but ends up spilling the beans.

Tim: "I'm going to the Midnight Mansion to see Amaz-O."

The "Midnight Mansion"? Yep, this is an R-rated magic show.

Anyway, Ginny wants to go along to see the magic show, since she's still too young to have gotten her owl from Hogwarts yet. And she even begins to call for their parents until Tim reluctantly agrees.

We skip over the part where they somehow get into the show without parents....

The back entrance is more trouble than it's worth.
...and cut to them in the Midnight Mansion's main lounge, surrounded by adults.
Wow, there must be over twenty people in the crowd. Truly, Amaz-O commands a packed house.
Soon enough, the announcer announces Amaz-O (Mike Carbone), who arrives on the tiny stage to begin his magic.

Holy crap, the standard handkerchief trick!
Yeah, Amaz-O's tricks kind of suck. I mean, they're fine, but I expect more from a magician of Amaz-O's alleged caliber. . I think that maybe Amaz-O's just a local guy who gained a little bit of fame by opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd once at the county fair. Except Tim did mention he saw Amaz-O do the sword-in-the-box trick on TV... which, for all we know, was Amaz-O doing a TV spot for a car dealership.

Anyway, the show continues with jaunty music and that most cliche of cliches, the rabbit. He makes it appear by making two birds in a cage disappear.

Tim: "Did you see that? Did you see that?"

Yes. Yes I did. The birdcage slid into the box it was sitting on. It was very obvious.

And if The Prestige has taught me anything, those birds are dead.
The show continues with the rabbit and a predictable joke.

Amaz-O: "What's the matter, buddy? Having a bad 'hare' day?"

...Nope, not laughing.

Amaz-O: "That's the one thing they don't teach you in magician school. Rabbits have no sense of humor."

You have no sense of humor, dude.

For Amaz-O's next trick, he needs a volunteer. Yes, he picks Tim.

Amaz-O: "I need someone small enough to fit into this box. And you look just about the right size."

And if Tim is the right size, then this trick would have been impossible had these two children not snuck out of their house to come see this magic show. Convenient.

But Amaz-O whips out a measuring tape to be on the safe side... and Tim's a smidge bit too big. So Amaz-O whips out a giant Harley Quinn-style mallet.

Amaz-O: "But maybe this will do the trick!"

"It's funny because it's a mallet."
Then he... tosses the prop away and continues. ...Okay.

He "admits" that it's a brand-new trick, and it doesn't always work. Tim hops inside the box as Amaz-O continues.

Amaz-O: "You see, it's easy enough to make someone disappear...."

"Mafia connections help."
Amaz-O: "But they don't always come back. Oh, by the way, if you meet a redheaded boy with a Hawaiian shirt, tell him he got an A in science class and his cat had kittens."

...How did he get an A in science if he disappeared? And what would Amaz-O have done if the audience were full of adults?

Amaz-O closes the lid on Tim and starts spinning around the Holy crap, I remember this!

Along with "Night of the Living Dummy 2," I have seen fragments of this episode. I turned on the TV, saw this kid getting spun around in a box, and started watching for a bit before it got too scary for me to continue.

And let me tell you, when you're not even in the second grade, and the TV is showing you a kid getting spun around in a box before emerging in a creepy basement and you have no idea what's going on... well, that can be trippier than watching Twin Peaks.

So yes, Tim emerges in the basement, having gone through a trap door. Onstage, a redheaded boy in a Hawaiian shirt emerges from the box, completing the joke.

"Holy crap, this man is a god."
Tim tries to leave the basement and get back to the show... but the basement is locked. From the other side of the door. So... Amaz-O just deposited a young boy into a basement which is locked from the outside.


Look, even ignoring the possibility of Amaz-O locking up Tim below the stage for creepy, immoral, and illegal reasons... well, that's just it. Tim's locked up below the stage, where he's forced to stay while the show completes. Way to ruin his night. Amaz-O should at least give him a t-shirt or something.

Tim passes the time slowly realizing what a jerk Amaz-O is while tossing cards into a couple hats for a couple hours. When the show ends, the basement door is finally opened by...

Colin Mochrie?!?
Colin Mochrie: "Hey, kid. The exit's down dat way."

That was... random. But I guess it was bound to happen, given where they filmed this.

And the fact that Colin is actually a magic enthusiast.
I look forward to Michael J. Fox and Dave Foley showing up.

...I'm going to be disappointed, aren't I?

So anyway, Tim walks into the oddly-lit hallway...
While around the corner, Batman and Robin are making a daring escape from the Clown Prince of Crime's giant man-eating clam.
Nah, I'm just kidding. Like Batman would ever appear on Goosebumps.

Tim sneaks into Amaz-O's dressing room before he leaves and looks around. He can't see anyone. But a gruff voice calls him a brat and tells him to beat it. So leave Tim does, but not before swiping Amaz-O's magic kit. He tries to leave the building with it, but his sister catches him again.

Momentarily getting possessed by a demon.
Ginny: "You were leaving without me? I'm telling mom!"

Yeah, tell her that Tim tried to leave you behind at the show you weren't supposed to go to. See how that goes for you.

Tim explains where he was the whole time, and how Amaz-O is a prime example of why you should never meet your heroes.

Tim: "I can't believe it. My idol's nothing but a creep."
Ginny: "What's that?"

A scaly yellow monster. I'll be going over that episode soon enough.

...Oh, she meant Amaz-O's magic bag.

Tim explains what it is, and she wants to see what's in it, despite the fact that they should flee the scene of the crime.

Ginny: "I want to see it now."

The demon returns!
He promises to show her tomorrow, and we cut to tomorrow in the shed. It opens with a silly sound, and Ginny starts pulling out endless handkerchiefs, wondering where the instructions are.

Tim: "There are no instructions. This isn't a toy, you know? This is Amaz-O's private kit. It doesn't need instructions."

As he puts on the jacket inside the kit, a cobra pops out of the sleeve, scaring his sister.

Tim: "It's fake... but look at it, though. It's so real!"

It's really not. It's... it's... wait.

I recognize that prop!
It's the cobra from "The Return of the Mummy." And it somehow looks even faker in that episode.
Next, Ginny messes with a curtain, used in tricks where you put it in front of something and lift it away, having made the "thing" in question disappear. And she accidentally uses it to make herself disappear... and reappear a little differently.

Tim: "I've turned my sister into a rabbit!

No, she turned herself into a rabbit. And technically, not even that.

Tim: "If it's you, give me a sign!"
Rabbit: "You want a sign? Go to the corner. It says 'stop.'"

Tim drops the rabbit as a riff plays on a trumpet. And I won't be counting every time the riff plays, but just know that it will happen after most of the things the rabbit says.

And I have to point out the rabbit, which moves its mouth to approximate human speech because they rubbed peanut butter in its mouth. That's how they did the effect for Mr. Ed, too. ...Ask your grandparents.

Anyway, the rude rabbit explains that he was once a man named "El Sydney, wizard extraordinaire."

Tim: "If you're Sydney, then..."
Rabbit: "El Sydney."

And this is punctuated with a brief fanfare. Because the punchline stinger just wasn't enough, I guess.

That is one disinterested rabbit.
Tim asks where his sister is, and El Sydney explains that Amaz-O's an evil magician with evil tricks. He turned El Sydney into a rabbit, and now Ginny's no doubt in his clutches.

El Sydney elaborates that Amaz-O was his hero, but Amaz-O stole his tricks and turned him into a rabbit. He also claims ownership of the fake guillotine trick, which dates back to at least the 1700s, so maybe Tim shouldn't put too much stock into what this polymorphic lagomorph says.

El Sydney came across a real magic wand, which Amaz-O stole in order to commit all of his evil. And in order to stop Amaz-O and set things right, El Sydney's going to need a little help stealing back that wand.

So Tim and El Sydney sneak into the Midnight Mansion to find the magic wand, which Amaz-O apparently keeps onstage among an entire plethora of stereotypical magicians' wands. So Tim starts going through them one by one, saying abra-cadabra and waving his hand until he makes his way through the gimmicky wands and finds the real one. It takes a while, but hey, the wand chooses the wizard.

Once Tim finds the correct wand, El Sydney tells him to stick him in the prop coffin onstage, but Tim won't restore El Sydney until they restore his sister first. So El Sydney guides him through the trick, consisting of Amaz-O's curtain, the wand's actual magic, and some magic words.

Tim: "Alakazam, alakazar, Ginny, come back from wherever you are! Please!"

And it works, because "please" is the real magic word. The more you know.

Ginny: "I'm telling Mom!"

Send her back to whatever Hell you banished her to, Tim.

"I have seen such beautiful horrors in a mindscape of damned souls, their faces contorted in silent screams."
Ginny storms off, and Tim wants to follow her and set things straight... but El Sydney throws a bit of flattery his way and offers him a job. So Tim is now all-too-eager to restore El Sydney. He sticks him in the coffin...

El Sydney: "Watch it! That's my lucky foot."

Uh-huh. Couldn't resist, huh, writers?
And so, Tim says more magic words... only for Amaz-O to show up as soon as he's done, so Tim disposes of the wand by sticking it in the coffin with El Sydney.

Amaz-O: "Hey, it's you. The kid from the disappearing act last night. What happened to you, where did you go?"

Uh... below stage? You made it happen, remember?

Tim: "Well, I waited, and then you told me to beat it, remember?"
Amaz-O: "I did? I never said that. Ah, you found my magic kit. Great."

Tim admits that he tried a few tricks, but Amaz-O only cares that the rabbit is missing from his suitcase.

Amaz-O, rabbits do not go in suitcases.

Amaz-O: "He used to be an evil magician, but I changed him into a rabbit for everyone's good."

Truly, the greatest wizard duel since Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald. It'll be outdone in two more years by the defeat of Voldemort, though.

Tim: "He said you were the evil one."
Amaz-O: "Yeah, he would say that."

"You have congress with the Beast to gain forbidden knowledge one time, and all of a sudden you're 'evil.'"
But as Tim slowly puts the pieces together like John Hardesky realizing that the Nazis wouldn't name their Super-Soldier "Captain America," Amaz-O realizes what Tim's words imply, and he opens the coffin, only for a bird to fly out. Said bird then changes into El Sydney (David Ferry).

El Sydney: "Honeeeeyy! I'm home!"

It's like if John Simm's Master grew a beard and somehow got even campier.
And he has Amaz-O's wand, which he uses to trap him within a cheap special effect.

Dude, your arms have room.
El Sydney: "You know what it's like having to eat nothing but lettuce and carrots?"

Dude, he was feeding you nothing but lettuce and carrots? Carrots don't have nearly enough nutrients for rabbits. He should have given you papaya extract, pellets, and timothy hay.

...What? My cousin takes a rabbit to the fair every year. I picked some stuff up.

El Sydney: "You know what it's like calling a hat your home?"

Is it like being a rolling stone?

El Sydney: "You know what it's like having your ears tugged and twisted?"

It's like animal abuse. Because that's what it is.

In revenge, El Sydney turns Amaz-O into a rabbit while Tim would simply like to get going now, please. But El Sydney reiterates his promises of partnership with the kid.

Yeah, Tim does not look very comfortable with the One Amigo's hug there.
And in the requisite twist ending, we cut to El Sydney doing his own magic act with his guillotine at the Midnight Mansion with his rabbits, Amaz-O and Tim.

El Sydney: "Now, ladies and gentlemen, I need a volunteer from the audience, someone who's not afraid to... 'split hares.'"

The crowd groans as Amaz-O says "Don't worry Tim, I'll think of something" in the flattest way humanly possible.

Tim: "What? And quit show business?"

And with one final rimshot, the episode ends. And the credits roll with an odd version of the theme tune that sounds like it was done in some kind of tropical-style. Because... El Sydney?

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