The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Two stale Vegas magicians meet their match in the form of a performance artist who steals their audience. Old school and new collide in a battle to be Vegas’ top act.

Featuring a couple of egomaniacal jerks (played by Steve Carell and Jim Carrey) who do battle via magic acts, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is certainly a movie that will give you a laugh or two along the way, but might not be anything to rush right out and see.

Burt Wonderstone and (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been the hottest magic act in Vegas for decades. The two grew up together, and took solace from being picked on at school by practicing magic. Together they rose to the top of their profession, to the point where they earned their own theatre named after them at Bally’s Casino.

Now there’s a new kind of magic on the strip, however. Street stunt artist Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) is making headlines via outrageous tricks that threaten to do him bodily harm. While traditional stage magicians like Wonderstone and Marvelton turn their noses up at what he’s doing, the public eats it up, which in turn hurts their ticket sales. When the owner of the casino (James Gandolfini) demands that they modernize their act, the two are forced to attempt a magic stunt similar to Gray’s.

When things go disastrously wrong, however, the two lifelong friends find themselves out of work and at odds with each other.

Wonderstone is left to rebuild his career by recalling what he loved about magic in the first place. To do so, he’ll need the help of his assistant (Olivia Wilde) and the man who first led him to begin practice magic: Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), a popular magician from long ago whose magic kit inspired Wonderstone and Marvelton as young boys. Can he pull himself and his team together in time to compete for the coveted contract to be headline attraction at a newly opening hotel and casino?

In Wonderstone, Carell crafts yet another one of his patented dense as a brick characters, only this time, he’s also an egotistical, boorish jerk. Seriously, I mean, he’s really a demeaning asshole to people. Over the course of the film, of course, we get to see his gradual softening into a decent individual, but most of the humor, especially early on, is derived from watching him be a pompous jerk. Jim Carrey plays an arrogant, smug bastard, as well, but this time a little on the spacey side. His Steve Gray is a tattooed punk whose tricks are less magic acts and more freakshow performances, and his popularity leads him to be completely dismissive of the traditional magicians.

The film is at its best when it pits the two of them against each other. It’s quite funny to watch these buffoons preen and try to one up each other. And each of their characters is humorous in just how self-absorbed they are… Wonderstone in his velvet and sequins and Gray with his tattoos and leather pants. It’s also funny to watch them rag on each others styles of magic, and to trade off against each other trick for trick.

The film’s big laugh quotient is a little light, however, and it may dedicate a touch too much time to Wonderstone’s change of heart. Arkin and Buscemi are woefully underutilized; both are well proven comedic talents who get few at bats here. While I found the movie to be funny and enjoyable overall, it’s hard to shake the feeling that with this murderer’s row of comedians, they couldn’t have come up with a funnier film.

Regardless, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” features some silly characters, some fun comedic face offs between Carell and Carrey, and pokes plenty of fun at the world of magic. It won’t become your favorite comedy, but it’s bound to give you plenty of chuckles over the course of its runtime.


Daniel Fogarty


41 thoughts on “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

  1. Great review, I especially agree that Buscemi and Arkin are underutilized. That being said, any Arkin is better than no Arkin at all, and he ended up being one of my favorite parts of the movie.

  2. Good review pal. This movie had it’s moments, but they didn’t really sizzle me and have me laughing like I would have appreciated. If anything, it’s Carrey who steals the show and makes this movie, as well as everybody else here, his bitch. Strictly speaking.

  3. I was worried this movie might suffer from the “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” syndrome (that needs an acronym) with Carell and Carrey. Carrey’s antics could balance out Carell’s somber comedy though. Good review.

    • LOL. That DOES need an acronym, huh? Carell and Carrey play off of each other pretty well. Carrey’s magician is really funny, but he’s definitely a supporting character… Looks like between this and Kick Ass 2, Carrey might be trying the supporting route a little, which’ll be nice. It’ll be nice to see him in smaller doses more frequently. LOL

      He keeps the antics in check for the most part, I think…

  4. Pingback: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review: Abraca-Average | Rorschach Reviews

  5. This has got a chance to get on my list-of one of the worst films of the year. The only time I chuckled was because of Arkin. The rest was uncomfortably unfunny with punch lines to gags set up to the point where you know what it’ll be. There were a number of times I almost walked out of the theater but I believe you can’t say anything about a movie without seeing the entire thing. Did not like Carell or Carrey and as for Olivia Wilde, any female could have done that part. It’s only because of Arkin that I’m giving this a 1 instead of a 0.

    • Wow. WORST list? Noooo. There’s gonna be a lot worse movies than this, this wasnt even the worst movie of the weekend!

      I dont think you were supposed to like Carell or Carrey, you were supposed to laugh at them. 😦

      I can see being disappointed or not thinking it was good, but it wasnt walk out of the theatre level bad, Al, I’ll defend it to that extent. 😯

      • It was that bad for me. And if I was supposed to laugh at Carell and Carrey, then the filmmakers didn’t succeed. Actually, “Film 43” is worse than TIBW.

    • I dont know how “Feel Good” it is, lol. But the movie didnt botch up the comedy too bad for me, Jay. Be warned, though its only in the 40s on Rotten Tomatoes, so your mileage may vary…

  6. Fogs, nice review. I do agree when you say that they it does leave a lot on the table. I liked it. I think it’s better than it’s getting credit for, but you do get the feeling they could have just done a little more.

    • Thanks Shane!

      You know, though, what do you do? Do you bag on a movie for what it COULD have been? “This movie sucked because it could have been SO much better” Or do you give it credit for what it is? “It was fairly amusing throughout, and wasn’t boring at all, so it was pretty decent…”

      I think too many people are being a little hard on this one. 😦

  7. I’ve read quite a few reviews now from people I trust and most have rated this 5/10 or below. My thoughts are more inline with yours – there aren’t big laughs but yet, there’s something about the film that had me smiling. I don’t regret the 2 hours I spent watching it.

    • There you go, Ben. I’ve seen a lot of people really beating this one up, too. And it wasn’t all THAT bad.

      I think a lot of people are holding the fact that its not gut bustingly funny against it. They cant just give it credit for being mildly amusing throughout. You know? 😦

  8. The movie is as conventional as they come, but that does not mean it is not entertaining. The inside magic jokes work if you know a little about the business, but there was not much of that there. I did think they overdid the magician = loser meme and in the end, they kick the legs out from the theme they had developed. I’ll want to hear Tank explain the rating he gave on the podcast. This was not a knockout but I feel your score was fine and reflects my opinion as well.

    • I was entertained by it, but I had to keep it in perspective… it was entertaining enough, but like you say, it wasnt a knockout.

      I suppose they did have their share of poking fun at the magic business, huh?

      Kep in mind, if youre referring to the comment above, that’s Tank Sr. I still dont know what TPMP Tank thinks. 😉

  9. “The film is at its best when it pits the two of them against each other.”

    Yes! The satire between Carell’s classic magic and Carrey’s modern street magic is a hilarious send-up of the two styles. I haven’t laughed this hard at a Jim Carrey performance since Me, Myself and Irene. This was return to form.

    • Hm. I have your review open, I’ll get to it sometime later today, but… Im feeling you were enthusiastic about this one then. LOL 😀

      It was alright, I cant go overboard about it. But the competition between the two of them was definitely the best part of the movie… 😀

  10. Good write-up here Fogs. I’m bit overly keen on Carrel but I’ll give this a go just out of curiosity. Sad to hear that Buscemi isnt used properly though. That’s criminal.

  11. Pingback: A Filmster Quickie: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone | The Filmster

  12. The first time I heard of this film was when I saw an article on how it was underperforming its opening weekend. My only thought is that no one can go see it if no one has heard of it.

    • Yeah, it didnt exactly have a marketing push. Maybe they thought that Carell and Carrey’s names alone would sell it? Maybe they recognized it would underperform and they wanted to bail on it by saving marketing $. Not sure. 😦

      In the meantime, its worth a watch on cable if you ever come across it…

Join in the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s