Monday, April 22, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - 2013

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" - 2013
Dir. by Don Scardino - 1 hr. 40 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" has got to be one of the worst titles for a movie that I've seen in years.  It manages the bad title trifecta: too long, hard to remember, tells you nothing about the movie itself.  I'm not going to stand here and tell you that this title is obscuring a gem of a film that fell through the cracks, I'll tell you instead that it simply doesn't do this film any favors.  It makes it sound like you might be going to see a film that stars a hologram Don Knotts, which has academic appeal, but probably wouldn't lure many viewers into a theatre.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) is a bullied youth who gets a magic kit for his birthday, which changes his life.  Burt and his buddy, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), dazzled by the Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) magic kit devote themselves to becoming magicians, ending up with a Bally's headliner show that runs for many years.  But Burt in particular has become jaded and embodies everything bad a "star" might be, and The Incredible Burt and Anton magic show is fading from popularity.  Part of the problem is the kind of street magic Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) performs (one of his TV specials is centered around Gray refraining from urinating for a week solid), which is on the upswing.  Doug (James Gandolfini), who runs Bally's, threatens Burt and Anton's employment, with a directive to update their show or else.  Their attempt goes awry, and Burt and Anton split acrimoniously.  Burt has to try to rebuild his career, but he's deliberately alienated everyone he's ever come in contact with through his buffoonish and arrogant behavior.

What's good here is that all of the actors are pretty funny (other than Olivia Wilde, who's character is supposed to be the object of desire for Wonderstone, and is supposed to provide a sane path out of his insane behavior).  Carell is great as a cross between David Copperfield (who actually has a cameo) and Siegfried and Roy, all rolled into one velvet-suited, bedazzled, blow-dried Vegas a-hole.  Buscemi's role is more of a straight-man role, which he does very well.  Jim Carrey's "Brain Rapist" parody of Criss Angel is fantastic and dead-on.  The ads implied that Carrey has a bigger role than he really does, although it's not as if he's only in one scene.  He brings a hyperactive arrogance to all of his scenes, and his character is in the movie just the right amount.  Any more and the Brain Rapist would have become too much to deal with, but as it is, Jim Carrey probably has the best scene in the entire film.  There's a bar scene where Steve Gray rolls in, only to find Wonderstone there.  Gray has a series of nonsensical taunts, and then literally floats out of the scene.  It was bewildering to watch, a tasty random bit of surrealism that left me laughing loudly and shaking my head at the same time.

While I generally enjoyed the movie, it wasn't great wall-to-wall.  It was good, but "Burt Wonderstone" isn't an edgy comedy.  It's more of a celebration of hackery (there are plenty of cheesy jokes, but they work in the context if you're in the spirit of the movie), and about watching a buffoon get embarrassed by a prick until the buffoon pulls his head out of his rear (it was PG-13, so I'll ease up on the language, too).  And then he gets the girl (and Olivia Wilde is both beautiful, and fun to watch).  On average, "Burt" is pretty funny with a couple of highlights, but it's not awesomely funny all the way through.

So if you're partial to any of the main actors, this will be a fun and forgettable way to pass a couple of hours.  But if you're not, or you're picky about the types of comedies you enjoy, or if magicians just creep you out, you might not want to go down this road.  But first, you're going to have to remember the stupid title of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" in order to pick it out of your local Redbox, which is a really bad barrier for a film to have.

2.5 / 5 - Theatre

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