A whiff of the strange never quite lifts from the real-life story of Al Carbee, a Maine outsider artist who converted his ramshackle home into a cavernous diorama for Barbie dolls. Filmmaker Jeremy Workman and then-girlfriend Astrid allowed themselves to get close to Carbee, exchanging letters and videos, the crux of which make up this involving if slightly frustrating profile of a married man who found an unusual amount of time for “the perfect model” who “never complains.”
Magical Universe leans too hard on twinkly enchantment music and even interrupts its brief flow for a spot-on piece of self-criticism, as Astrid worries that they might be turning Carbee into an ominous weirdo. They are. Further revelations (too good to spoil) reveal his complex attachment to fantasy, itself fascinating and deserving of a more serious approach.
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