The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review
Posted by Ernest Lin on 03.15.2013
Steve Carell and Jim Carrey play rival magicians in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which hits theaters today! But is there anything magical about it or does it just have same old tricks? 411's Ernest Lin checks in with his full review!
Directed By: Don Scardino
Written By: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein Runtime: 100 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language
Steve Carell as Burt Wonderstone Steve Buscemi as Anton Marvelton Olivia Wilde as Jane Jim Carrey as Steve Gray Alan Arkin as Rance Holloway
On paper, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone looks like it would be a decent comedy. The film stars Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde and Jim Carrey. It’s written by one of the co-writers of Horrible Bosses, Jonathan Goldstein, and is directed by 30 Rock director Don Scardino. It’s a recipe for comedy gold. Astonishingly, the most amazing magic trick Burt Wonderstone pulls off is the overall boredom you’ll have when watching.
In all seriousness, it’s easier to guess the plot and many of the jokes than what card you picked out of my deck of cards. The story follows the cookie-cutter frame of many past Will Ferrell movies: protagonist finds success for a while and becomes egotistical before falling from being #1, which means he has to redeem himself by the end of the movie. It’s not a deal breaker if a movie follows that format but it drags down the experience when everything else about the movie isn’t that great. I think Steve Carell is facing a curse because so many of the movies he’s starred in are just not that funny. Jokes in Burt Wonderstone are few and far between, with only a handful of them garnering solid laughs. The scenes with Jim Carrey’s Chris Angel character Steve Gray were consistently funny and the most memorable parts. However, nothing in the 100-minute runtime had me laughing to tears.
It’s really a shame since there are plenty of creative and wacky ideas the writers could have done with a comedy about magicians. Heck, even being set in Las Vegas opens up potential for humor about Sin City itself. Wonderstone only touches the surface of the possibilities available. For example, a side magician friend of Wonderstone, clearly inspired by Siegfried & Roy, is constantly exhibiting signs of injury from his tiger attacking him. Why not have more wacky magician friends for Wonderstone, each with his or her own quirk or unique personality? Another scene features Wonderstone and his partner Anton attempting to spend a week in a raised transparent rectangular prism. What did the writers do? Just have Wonderstone freak out minutes later and cause both him and Anton to fall. They could’ve played with the insanity of the stunt more, but they didn’t. One of the few good moments was a magic battle between Carell’s Wonderstone and Carrey’s Gray at a child’s birthday party. Honestly, I was hoping for more crazy magician battles and conflict between the two. That’s what the trailers misled audiences to believe.
Burt Wonderstone’s cast does a satisfactory job in their roles, even with what they are given to work with. Steve Carell’s forte has become the clueless yet likeable character, so stepping into the role of Burt Wonderstone seemed to fit well. Steve Buscemi was an odd choice to play Anton Marvelton, Wonderstone’s magician partner and best friend. The friendship between the two never felt believable due to a real lack of chemistry between Carell and Buscemi. Olivia Wilde’s character, the magic assistant Jane, was pretty minor and got no more than thirty minutes of screen time. Alan Arkin was perfect to play the older magician Rance Holloway who inspired a young Wonderstone to practice magic and later served as Wonderstone’s mentor. The perfect casting choice has to go to Jim Carrey as Steve Gray. He takes his Chris Angel-like Gray to ridiculous and wacky heights and there really needed to more of him.
In the movie, Burt Wonderstone finds himself losing any enthusiasm for what he does because he’s been doing it for so long. Wonderstone forgets why he got into magic and how spectacular it felt to wow and entertain others. Ironically, that represents what a lot of the crew, especially the writers may have been like during the production of this film and it shows. One of my best friends who saw the movie with me said afterwards, “You know what this movie really needed? Jokes.” Nothing that goes abracadabra here. Same old tricks.
The 411: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is an uninspiring, boring comedy with some chuckles to be had at best. It's a shame because there is potential in the movie's concept, but unfortunately it's just blandly written and executed. The magic is definitely gone for the cast and crew, leaving audiences little to wonder about Wonderstone.