THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE
***1/2 (out of 5)
March 15, 2013
Steve Carell as BURT WONDERSTONE
Steve Buscemi as ANTON MARVELTON
Olivia Wilde as JANE
Jim Carrey as STEVE GRAY
James Gandolfini as DOUG MUNNY
Alan Arkin as RANCE HOLLOWAY
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Don Scardino
BY KEVIN CARR
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Thanks to some generous comedic talent in the cast of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” the movie is much better than it has any business being. After all, it’s about Vegas magicians. The pitch feels like it’d be more at home in a 1970s made-for-TV movie than a major feature film.
However, like “Blades of Glory,” which managed to take the world of figure skating and make a wickedly funny movie about it, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” sits squarely on the shoulders of its talent and becomes a better movie for it.
The story follows a Vegas show magician at the top of his game. Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) went from being a bullied kid in school to becoming one of the highest-paid magicians in the country. However, his arrogance causes a rift between him and his long-time magic partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). This leads to sagging ticket sales, and Burt loses his permanent gig at a casino while his boss (James Gandolfini) is starting to court a new stunt magician (Jim Carrey), who represents an amalgamation of David Blaine and Cris Angel.
First off, I was eager to see this movie for no other reason than to poke fun at performers like David Blaine (a talented close-up magician in his own right) whose careers have centered around boring endurance stunts. I also was happy to see the film poke fun at the overly lavish presentation of Cris Angel, which I’ve always thought borderlines on the ridiculous.
That’s right. Give me a tiger act, mullets and sequins, and I’m happy with a Vegas magician. But long hair and eye make-up causes me to scoff. Sue me.
But back to “Burt Wonderstone.”
What makes this movie work is the chemistry and timing of the talent. The story’s fine enough, with enough heart and character development to make it past an average audience. But it’s all still very rote, with the characters doing the vary basic motions of a redemption story in which an ass learns how to not be such an ass.
A comedy like this relies on its funny moments. It doesn’t rely on a major sequence like “Bridesmaids” or “The Hangover” did. Instead, it relies on a steady stream of biting one-liners and sight gags. However, unlike many of the lesser comedies of today, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” doesn’t linger.
Unlike the popular-but-limp “Identity Thief,” the film isn’t predicated on a single gag. Plus, with a broad range of solid comedic actors (including Carell, Buscemi, Carrey and Alan Arkin), each person has his moment to shine, and the others get out of his way to allow him to do so.
It’s not that “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is a fantastic film that will redefine comedy. Rather, it’s just a funny movie that I enjoyed watching.
And that’s all this movie needed to be.