The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) Directed by Don Scardino. Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey . IMDB says: ”When a street magician’s stunt begins to make their show look stale, superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton look to salvage on their act – and their friendship – by staging their own daring stunt.”
I didn’t expect anything too dazzling from The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. It wasn’t anything personal, but March comedies aren’t typically the biggest films to lookout for. Fortunately though, Wonderstone surprised me with a solid number of laughs and that’s all I really could have asked for.
The film follows our title character (at this time known as Albert) starting around the age of 10 where he is shown to be a sweet kid at the bottom of the social ladder. He receives a magic kit for his birthday and is overcome with both excitment and eagarness to learn. Through this passion, he gains the friendship of another lonely boy named Anton (Steve Buscemi) and the two quickly vow to become partners. Flashing forward to adulthood, the two have now become a famous headlining act but Burt is spoiled by the success. Then their careers are jeopardized once a new “Street Magician” (Jim Carey) starts to make a big splash in the magic scene. The duo disbands after a failed new trick and the pampered Wonderstone finds life very difficult to sort out. Nothing entirely too inventive in the plot but not exactly paint by numbers either. The idea feels a few years too late with the Cris Angel type hype now somewhat nonexistent, but Carey’s character and the old vs. new magic battle is still relatable enough.
Speaking of Jim Carey, let’s take a second with the character’s and their performance. It might not be much of a surprise but Carey nails his creepy magician character Steve Grey (with a show called Brain Rapist… I shit you not, it’s brilliant.) He really morphs into the character using his staple physical comedy talents but manages to keep the character fresh and surprising. Carell isn’t playing exactly on par, nor ruining anything either. He does a nice job changing a character that is rather unlikable into a real human of the course of the movie’s run time. Steve Buscemi is a fun but quiet character and Olivia Wilde as the aspiring magician would have fit perfectly if she were about ten years older. A special nod though to Alan Arkin who all in all, is just plain funny.
Even with such a talented comedic cast in play, the biggest reason Wonderstone works well is the writing. The jokes aren’t always smart or high brow but they fit with the story. This film about magicians has a goofy premise but it’s backed by a self aware screenplay. It helps when the jokes point out the ridiculous nature of the situations and use it to their advantage. An example like the Grey character is also a perfect use of parody.
When all is said and done, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone might not stand the test of time yet deserves at least a rewatch. Maybe it plays things too safe but I doubt you would be upset if you caught this as a matinee or rental. It was surprisingly funny and gave me a few gags that I’m still chuckling about. Give it a chance.