Runtime: 1 HR, 40 MIN
Director: Don Scardino
Writers: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chad Kultgen, Tyler Mitchell
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr, Brad Garrett
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is being released only a week after Oz the Great and Powerful comes another film about a magician facing a “crisis of faith.” That’s where the similarities end between Oz and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone… unless you count the cheesy tricks, top hats, and the inflated egos. Thankfully what Wonderstone lacks in dazzlingly visuals it more than makes up for with genuine laughs.
Burt and Anton’s once successful Las Vegas Casino magic act has fallen on hard times and empty theaters as the up and coming street performer Steve Gray has become The Strip’s hottest ticket. Tempers flare as the stunt Burt and Anton had hoped would lure back their audience goes terribly wrong and their “Magical Friendship” goes up in smoke. Forced to perform alone for the first time Burt must pull the proverbial rabbit out of his hat with the help of his exasperated assistant and his cantankerous mentor before Steve Gray can make his career disappear for good.
Let me start by apologizing for that pun laden synopsis; sometimes I can’t help myself no matter how much I want to stop. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a lot like that synopsis; it’s cheesy and playful and you’re either going to get a chuckle out of it or think it’s a huge waste of time. By now you’ve probably come to the conclusion that I liked The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and you’d be right.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone does a good job balancing physical and dialogue driven humor and hilariously parodies the Las Vegas acts that serve as the film’s inspiration without being cruel about it. The butt of many of the jokes is the magicians and the tricks they perform, but you can feel the love and appreciation the actors have for magic and those who perform it.
If you have strong feelings against Steve Carell or Jim Carrey this may not be the film for you because the film oozes their brands of humor in almost every scene. Carell’s aloof egotism combined with Carrey’s creepy condescension and physical abilities make for great comedy and feature some of the film’s best scenes. Their comedy techniques aren’t completely similar but they’re not completely dissimilar either so it’s an interesting ‘marriage’ on screen. Bringing up the rear of the main cast is Steve Buscemi; it’s a position he’s familiar with and even though he’s gone for long periods of time he makes good use of his screen time.
Argo’s Alan Arkin co-stars as Burt’s childhood inspiration for becoming a magician; as he often does he easily steals the show with his cantankerous elderly attitude and is has one of the best deliveries of the word “Fuck” in the industry. Olivia Wilde plays Burt and Anton’s onstage assistant and the potential love interest of Burt. As usual Wilde brings a refreshing playfulness to her roles and is more than capable of holding her own against more seasoned comedic veterans around her. The only thing that gave me a small moment of pause was the twenty plus year age gap between her and Carell which just seemed a little too implausible even in a world filled with magic.
If there’s one area where Burt Wonderstone’s magic falls a bit flat it’s in regard to the script repetitiveness. During the second half of the film there’s a strong sense of déjà vu and you might start asking yourself, “Haven’t we covered this already?” It’s not a deal breaker by any means; even with the repetitiveness many of the scenes are still very funny they just feel unnecessary.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a lot of fun; if you enjoy magic and/or the comedic styling of Steve Carell or Jim Carrey this film effectively pulls a rabbit out of the hat. The supporting cast is equal to its stars so no matter who’s on screen the laughs just keep on coming. The film’s repetitive script is one of the only aspects of the film I can criticize but even that issue didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the film.