Mar 16, 2013 / 12:00 pm
Despite the stellar and talented cast that perform in the new film The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, the overriding thing I took away from it was simply that I would replace the word incredible in the title with mediocre. It's not a terrible movie at all, but it certainly isn't anything to write home about either. Of course, it's my job to write about this film and tell you all about it, so even though it vanished from my thoughts - much like a magic trick - as soon as I walked out of the theater, I'll set aside my blasé reaction to it and try to muster up a synopsis for you.
We meet Burt as a young boy and see that he is an awkward kid who gets picked on a lot. One day he receives a home magic kit for his birthday and when he watches the accompanying instructional video featuring renowned magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) his world changes and he's hooked on magic. He befriends another nerdy kid named Anton who also gets bitten by the magic bug.
Fast forward to 30 years later and Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are one of the most successful magic acts playing on the Las Vegas strip. Any sign of the meager and shy kid that Burt once was has completely disappeared and he has become an egomaniacal, womanizing jerk that seemingly has no regard for anyone but himself. Behind the scenes, tensions are mounting between Burt and Anton mostly due to Burt's dismissive and even abusive nature. Their act has become somewhat stale and the dwindling ticket sales are due in large part to audiences wanting something fresh and edgy.
This comes in the form of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), a hardcore street magician - not unlike David Blaine and Criss Angel - that pushes the boundaries of taste by performing stunts that include holding in his urine for a week, sleeping on hot coals and various forms of self mutilation. He does this for a show he likes to call "Brain Rapist". Nice eh?
Realizing they have to compete with this new style of magic, Burt and Anton attempt a stunt of their own which ends up going horribly awry and causes Anton to quit the show and leave Burt all alone. It turns out that Burt can't function alone and when he gets fired from Bally's casino, he spirals downward until he is relegated to performing magic tricks at old folks homes and kids parties.
I won't say what happens next but needless to say it's the fairly predictable redemptive character arc from this point on.
Look, I don't want to rag on this film too much as there are some funny moments scattered throughout. The problem is there are just not enough of them. I found myself groaning and wincing at some of the corny and forced so-called comedy bits. Steve Carell's character is just so one-dimensional and lacks any depth to it. I really wasn't the biggest fan of his performance in this at all. Jim Carrey was kind of amusing as the nutty street magician, but he seemed criminally underutilized. I honestly thought he would have a bigger role in this film, so that was a disappointment. Steve Buscemi was decent in his supporting role as Anton. He underplays his part and has some funny facial expressions and line delivery. Olivia Wilde was fine as Burt and Anton's pretty assistant named Jane who Burt keeps calling Nicole all the time. It's obvious though that she is just placed there to be an eventual love interest for Burt. The character that made me laugh the most was probably Alan Arkin as the retired Rance Holloway. He's a part of some of the films funniest moments to be sure. James Gandolfini also pops up as the owner of Bally's who is Burt and Anton's boss. He's ok but isn't given a whole lot to do.
Overall I found The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to be a lackluster and really lame show. Sure there were some over-the-top moments but nothing that really stood out or had any bite or edge to it. Given the talent involved, this film was a pretty big letdown.
I understand that comedy is subjective and that some may enjoy this light fare, but for me The Incredible Burt Wonderstone just wallowed in mediocrity and lacked any magic whatsoever.
I give The Incredible Burt Wonderstone a 5 out of 10.
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