Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone | Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn


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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Set in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world where magic acts are a big draw for audiences of all ages, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone features several characters inspired by real life headliners and street magicians. Sadly, for a film set in the world of magic, it is short on magic and far from incredible. And, although released as a comedy, the laughter inducing moments are few and far between.

Steve Carell plays the titled character of Burt Wonderstone, a self tanned, womanizer with a huge ego and Steve Buscemi is his faithful stage partner and best friend from childhood, Anton Marvelton. Together they make up an act of superstar magicians (inspired by Siegfried and Roy) that have headlined Bally's for 10 years.  These days, however, their act appears to be old and worn out, with their career threatened by the arrival of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, as a cross between Criss Angel and David Blaine) a long haired, tattooed, “guerilla” street magician, whose edgy, outrageous stunts and self torture such as holding his urine for 12 days, spending a night lying on a bed of red hot coals, slicing through his cheek to retrieve a playing card, and drilling a hole in his head,  have drawn legions of fans and the attention of Burt and Anton's boss, Bally's CEO Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) who sees Grey as the “future of magic”.

In an attempt to try something new and fresh in order to keep their career alive, Burt and Anton come up with their own “grand illusion” - spending a week in a transparent “Hot Box” suspended above the Las Vegas Strip. But just after twenty minutes into the stunt, something goes terribly wrong resulting in the duo engaging in a fight and severing their partnership.

With his career down the drain, and having lost all his money, Burt is forced to move into a run down motel.  To make ends meet he winds up taking a job as a product demonstrator at Big Lots before landing a gig entertaining the elderly at an assisted living facility where retired performers reside.  That's where he encounters his childhood idol, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) a veteran magician whose home-video magic kit inspired Burt to become a magician in the first place.  For Burt as a young kid, magic was a means to deter being bullied and to gain much needed positive attention and love.

That was then and this is now.  The question is, after hitting rock bottom, will Burt be able to make a comeback?  Will he reunite with his partner that he verbally abused and alienated?   Is redemption in Burt's cards?   There are no surprises including where the relationship with his gorgeous stage assistant/aspiring magician Jane (Olivia Wilde, totally wasted in this hapless role) is headed.

Burt is so unlikeable and narcissistic that it is hard to sympathize for his character who, for some reason, grew from a sweet kid into a totally obnoxious adult. It doesn't help that Carell never seems comfortable in his role that would have been more suited to Will Ferrell.  I would have liked to see more of the wonderful Buscemi, but after his character's falling out with Burt, he departs the scene and doesn't show up until close to the film's end.  Other familiar faces that pop up in cameo roles are actor/comedians Brad Garrett and Jay Mohr, and a quickie appearance by master illusionist, Las Vegas headliner, David Copperfield.

Presumably meant as a satire,  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone had so much potential that, unfortunately, is never realized. Instead, we get a series of mostly lame gags and stunts within a formulaic, contrived, predictable storyline, directed by sitcom veteran Don Scortino (TV's 30 Rock, Mindy Project, 2 Broke Girls) from writers Jonathan M.Goldstein and John Francis's (Horrible Bosses) lackluster script.

It doesn't take any trickery to predict The Incredible Burt Wonderstone will quickly disappear from theaters not long after its release. As they say in magic, now you see it and now you don't.    

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.