Film Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
If that’s what you came for, you’ll get it.
As long as you can stomach some forced sentimentality and tone flip-flopping.
TL;DR Unable to decide between sincerity and farce, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a collection of satisfying yet isolated gags. I’m just grateful that Jim Carrey didn’t over-act himself into oblivion. 2 out of 5 stars.
So the plot is thankfully simple. Burt Wonderstone and his childhood friend Anton Marvelton have been a successful magician double act in Vegas for 10 years. However, Burt has become wonderfully jaded/alcoholic (I can so relate). When they witness the bizarre and torturous “act” of Jim Carrey’s Criss Angel knock-off, they try to spice up their show. Failure ensues. Anton ditches Burt, and Burt is fired. Blah blah blah coming back from adversity, eventual triumph over Carrey. Olivia Wilde also shows up as a love interest/conscience for Burt. She is surprisingly under-sexualised.
After hearing all the nay-saying, I was pretty skeptical about this thing. Luckily, it actually is fun.
Unluckily, it’s still kind of crap. It just doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Most of the time (and for most of the best parts) it’s an amorally flippant fun-time with the alcoholic, dated, egomaniacal Burt. Then every time one of those sequences is finished, the movie tries to slip in stuff about faded dreams, the forgettable elderly etc.
I’m not saying it didn’t work. The movie uses these to make a point. But it’s a point that undermines the fun I was having before.
Why I hate this movie:
Not all the flippant stuff works, either. There is a terribly uncomfortable scene where Alan Arkin’s old mentor character is pretending to have a stroke. Burt and Olivia are under the impression that it’s real. It’s really long and not funny. Just sad. And cruel. It’s in a real-ass looking hospital room and everything. Too real, guys. Stop.
Olivia Wilde’s character is constantly sidelined. The most disappointing effect of this is that, while she proclaims several times to be an aspiring magician (and not just an assistant or backstage person), we never get to see her do any of her show. It’s a vital part of her character, yet it’s simply an implied ability. This is most frustrating when the end of the movie shows the marquee with the ad for her act. Just give us a shot of the fucking show.
Jim Carrey’s character is more of a vague irritation than a proper villain. He only shows up occasionally to be weird and then promptly disappear. He’s certainly not worthy of being on the poster.
Also, he looks old. And wrinkly. Ew.
Burt somehow lives on $200 and whatever he gets paid from his measly jobs for several weeks. As the recently unemployed, imma call bullshit on that.
Oh, and the lynchpin of The Disappearing Audience trick is a random drug that is mentioned once in a throwaway gag earlier in the movie. Burt and Anton have a big epiphany moment when they simultaneously realise that it would be perfect. Took me a few seconds to figure out what the fuck they were talking about. A eureka moment it ain’t.
Reasons to watch:
The gags are great for the most part. The highlight would have to be the ending credits sequence that shows off exactly how The Disappearing Audience is performed. Any time unconscious magic show patrons are thrown around like luggage is a good time.
Also, it’s a cool trick.
The attention to showing many of the magic acts is welcome. I’m sure they’ve flubbed a few of them with CGI, but they still looked good.
Next to the gags, the pacing of the movie is probably its greatest asset. Except for a bit of languishing in the middle section, every scene is in and out promptly. A great example of this would be The Hot Box debacle. I was expecting that to be torturously drawn out, but was pleasantly surprised when it all came tumbling down almost immediately. Nice.
It’s nice to see Steve Carell take a step away from the “humdrum nice guy” role for a change. And not in a disgusting, painful fashion.
While his role as a villain is hindered, the push out of focus for Carrey’s character makes him tolerable. And I know Criss Angel is retardedly easy to parody (Simpsons did it), but that’s because he’s a hilarious freakshow.
Also, the parody version of Mindfreak in this movie is Brain Rapist. Eloquent.
There’s a montage where Burt is calling every hotelier he can think of to find a new booking. He calls the Hiltons. The person on the other end of the phone is apparently unsure of whom to direct his call to, so Burt clarifies by saying he’ll talk to any Hilton. “Nicky will do.” I lol’d.
Anton’s subplot about visiting starving, foreign children and bringing them magic kits instead of food and water is cute.
Oh, and Alan Arkin turns his ol’ cranky routine on perfectly as the grizzled mentor.
It’s not the train wreck the box office numbers make it out to be. Yeah, it’s nothing special or magical (kinda akward considering its premise), but not every Vegas movie can be The fucking Hangover. 2 out of 5 stars.