The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

20 Mar


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone see’s Steve Carell in the title role as a famous magician who falls on hard times, thanks in-part to his own ego. You see, before it all starts to go wrong, things are going incredibly right; In fact, they’ve been going right for a decade. Along with his partner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), Burt has been a headline act in Las Vegas for ten years.

The film starts by showing us how Burt and Anton came to be magicians in the first place. Bullied at school for not being very cool, Burt gets a magic set for his birthday. The set is made by Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), the best magician in the world at that point. Burt is in awe of the tricks and learns them for himself. He soon befriends Anton and the two of them embark on their magic career.

Fast forward to adulthood and super-stardom where we see Burt and Anton starring in their show. It’s as camp as camp can be, and Buscemi in particular looks like he’s loving the role. However, we’re introduced to the fact that the pair aren’t getting on as well as you might think (or rather, everything is as expected. If you’ve ever seen a film before their demise will not surprise you).

Burt’s arrogance is causing problems and they’ve been doing the same act for a decade. The public has a craving for something new, and that’s where extreme magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) comes in. As the movie progresses, Gray’s tricks become more gruesome; I might be attributing too much to this but I thought this was quite a good commentary on society’s thirst for extreme entertainment and how desensitised we’ve become to it. If that’s what it is, it’s not very subtle, but it’s quite good.


I won’t give any more plot points, but safe to say things unravel for the lead pair and they have to do some soul searching to try and repair their relationship and their careers.

The big problem this film had for me was that it was all too predictable. Every single characters’ story arc is obvious from very early on so nothing here comes as a surprise. That’s not say this is a bad film, because it isn’t.

The film is primarily a comedy, and there are laughs, mostly in the form of one-liners. Steve Carell is in comfortable ground here, he knows how to play these parts as well as anyone so if you like Carell, then you’ll find something to enjoy in this movie. Buscemi too seems extremely comfortable, though he’s not a natural comic so there’s less obvious laughs from him.

James Gandolfini has a good supporting role as a Doug Munny, an un-succintly named hotel owner who plays a key role in the Wonderstone and Marvelton’s careers. I found that a lout of the genuine laugh-out-loud moments came from him. Olivia Wilde also supports well as a magician’s assistant. She’s earnest and is a good foil to Carell. Jim Carrey and Alan Arkin also support well.

It’s hard to write too much about their performances as, quite honestly, everybody delivers what is required and rarely offer more. The basic story has been done a million and one times before, but it is done as well as can be here. Comedy is subjective so I can’t tell you that you’ll laugh where I did. Much of your enjoyment of the film will come whether you find it funny or not, as the story is so predictable. Personally I enjoyed it and would say it’s worth seeing if you want to pass an hour and a half. You’re not missing out on a whole lot if you give it a swerve though.



2 Responses to “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”

  1. CMrok93 March 21, 2013 at 14:28 #

    I’ll say that 90% of the jokes I laughed at involved Jim Carrey and the other 10% was just stuff with Buscemi and Arkin. NOT Carrell! Good review.

    • Richard Burns March 21, 2013 at 21:49 #

      Fair enough – I think comedy is a hard one to review because it’s so subjective. It’s easy to say what is good acting, good directing etc – but to tell somebody something is funny is a lot more difficult.

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