STEVE CARELL STEVE BUSCEMI JIM CARREY OLIVA WILDE ALAN ARKIN
There is one sure thing you can always count on with a Steve Carell or Jim Carrey film, and that is the most obnoxious facial expressions possible. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is an outrageous comedy much like Semi-Pro or Blades of Glory, just less vulgar. The most unique thing about this film poking fun at the world of magicians is the various types of comedy, including slapstick, gross and vulgar, witty and, of course, obnoxious. Burt Wonderstone pretends to have a message about friendship, but it's clear this film’s main goal is to provide the audience with the escapism and then, just like magic, pretend you forgot you ever saw it.
Burt (Carell) and his best friend Anton (Buscemi) grew up the outcasts in school, always getting made fun of. Their joint love of magic bonded their friendship, which turned into a highly successful Vegas act through the 90’s. Now pompous and unwilling to reinvent himself, Burt is losing his partner, show and all the riches he has become accustomed to. Steve Gray (Carrey), aka the Brain Rapist, is the latest freak show in the magic world, pulling death defying stunts in the streets. Burt’s bad luck and obstinance leads him to a nursing home gig where he rediscovers the magician who made him into what he is today, Rance Holloway (Arkin), and rediscovers the passion he had as a child.
There is an interesting line in the film: “You want to try and dazzle people, not put them to sleep”. All comedies suffer the problem of running out of steam when all the jokes and gags have run their course and still have to end the story. Not counting Hope Springs and Little Miss Sunshine, Carell’s work (much like Carrey’s in the 90’s) is all the same. Arkin is as fun to watch as anyone, but he especially knows one character and this time it’s another brief mirror role of Stand Up Guys.
What this film does have is Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey, and he hasn’t played himself like this in a while. There are still many moves and subplots that are avoided here just so Carell and Carrey can make another dumb joke or fall over. If you like to laugh and don’t need much encouragement to do so, this film will likely serve you well with its big budget stars and big budget laughs that satisfy those who subscribe to this vein of comedy. If you are looking for sophisticated, higher brow comedy with wit and memorable lines and scenes, then this will only waste your time
Final Thought – Incredibly mediocre.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opened the SXSW Film Festival in Austin to a great reception. Steve Carrell (Burt), Steve Buscemi (Anton), and Jim Carrey (Steve) make a fine trio to carry the film. Their acting and perfect timing pull for a lot of fun and laughter. But the story has more than just laughs. It also charts the growth and development of Burt, who, as a nerdy child obsessed with magic, was bullied and isolated. When Anton starts to befriend him in the school cafeteria by asking him about magic, he is overjoyed and they become fast friends. The friendship eventually develops into a magic performance partnership (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone), and they become a famous act on the Vegas Strip.
The popularity affects Burt so that he evolves into a narcissistic adult who exploits others to his advantage (particularly Anton) and has no insight into his social behavior. Anton is a good and loyal friend, and is very patient with Burt.
Then Steve Gray, a street magician, enters the picture intent on replacing the Wonderstone act. Steve has similar personality problems as Burt, but is more gauche and less well trained in the art of magic. Instead, he performs unbelievably risky feats, appealing to the morbid interests of his followers. This includes obviously atrocious acts that involve cutting (and later sewing up) a gash on his cheek, drilling into his brain, and so on. In the meantime, Burt and Anton have maintained the same act for years, without updating it to appeal to the younger generation. This puts the Burt/Anton show in jeopardy.
After huge denial that he has anything to worry about, Burt’s attempts to rescue his career are pathetic, and he ends up at the bottom rungs of life; whereas Anton makes adaptations for survival, and they split up. This actually turns out to be something of a healing experience for Burt, and he subsequently loses some of his haughtiness and increases his awareness of others. That helps him get started on the way back up. In the beginning, he was always dismissive of his and Anton’s female assistants, even the latest one, Jane (Olivia Wilde) who tries repeatedly to befriend him. As he becomes more open to others and gets some help from his magician idol Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), things begin to turn around, and their magic act is revived.
So, in addition to the laughs, Burt Wonderstone is a story about friendship, loyalty, and self- development. It is highly entertaining (curiously for me, even Steve’s horrendous magic act), but with a serious side. The actors are perfect in their roles and are probably the major reason for the film’s success. My one regret is that Olivia Wilde’s character is minimal. For instance, when the group reforms, she has developed an act of her own and is promised to be an equal partner, but for some reason, this is just left hanging and we do not see her perform at all. In the Q&A after the film’s screening, Wilde was asked about being in a “male-dominated” cast, and she responded with, “It may look manly, but…”, which drew laughter. Then she went on to say that whereas magic and Hollywood are male-dominated worlds, there are many women behind the scenes in Hollywood. Moreover, women are now opening movies in all genres. That paves the way for other women. Now, she says, the same thing needs to happen in magic; one woman needs to become the headlining magician in Vegas. Too bad, they did not include her as part of the Wonderstone act in this film.