Film Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

June 19, 2013 1:13 pm

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is anything but incredible. Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi play Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton in a Martin & Lewis type of magic acts that they’ve shared for the last decade at Bally’s in Las Vegas.  They are best friends on-stage, but bicker constantly behind it, mainly about the repetitiveness of their act, introduced by the annoying song Abracadabra. The fault seems to lie with Burt, an arrogant and pompous diva, who even though bored of  the same old tricks, has settled into the routine and now only does it for the women.

Their expired act is made even more evident once Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) enters the scene and dazzles Doug Munny (James Gandolfini), Burt and Anton’s employer, with Chris Angel style tricks, such as pulling a card from a bloody gash in his cheek.

Burt’s stubbornness to update his act and adopt the “more physical maiming than illusion” style of magic creates a rift between him and Anton, while his misogyny and arrogance drive off the love-interest, played by Olivia Wilde. As it seems to be the common norm in Hollywood nowadays, the hero must hit rock-bottom so that by the end of the film he can rise again. From here on, the plot of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone plays out a bit like a romantic comedy, as Carrell has to win back both Buscemi and Olivia Wilde, leading to the classic foreshadowed conclusion of these types of films.

The story is formulaic at best, which is a shame, because writers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley were behind the funnier Horrible Bosses, and director Don Scardino had such a quality cast to work with. Sadly, Buscemi is wasted as second fiddle for Carrell, Alan Arkin and James Gandolfini appear sporadically, and Carrell seems to have been miscast as an arrogant twat; a role which would have been better suited for someone like Will Farrell. With each uttered line, you can feel him cringing inside and what comes out sounds rather forced, like he’s embarrassed with what he’s saying.

The only character that really works is Jim Carrey’s Steve Gray. Even though some of his gimmicks are reminiscent of Carrey’s early goofball characters, you can’t help but rejoice at the way he strides around shirtless, showing off his tattoos and Jesus-wig, satirizing the likes of Chris Angel and David Blade and their outrageous, borderline masochistic stunts.

Running at a little over 90 minutes, the film felt way longer, mostly because of the fact that for a comedy, the jokes are severely lacking. There are funny bits, like Buscemi’s character trying to help people in impoverished countries by giving them magic kits instead of food and water, or Carrey’s stunts, but these moments are few and far between.

At one point, Alan Arkin’s character tells Carrell that the reason they became magicians is “that sense of wow, that anything is possible. That and the women”. Sadly, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone never delivers that sense of wow and the women are too few to possibly redeem it.

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