The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review

Do you believe in magic?

I didn’t used to, and neither did Burt Wonderstone.

More uncommonly known as Albert Wunderstein, it’s fair to say Burt had his share of run-ins with school bullies as a child.

With a name like that, what else would you expect?

As if his parents hadn’t inflicted enough damage on the poor boy, they can’t even be bothered to show up for a young Burt’s birthday.

Still, at least they remembered to buy him a present and, after baking his own cake from instructions left for him by his loving mother, Burt moves onto a beautifully wrapped birthday present.

What lies beneath is a Rance Holloway Magician’s Kit, and as Burt’s eyes grow wide with childlike excitement, we see the future that lies ahead of him.

Before you can say abracadabra, we’ve fast forwarded thirty years via the miracle of montage and are now watching the incredible Burt Wonderstone and his faithful sidekick Anton Marvelton play to a sell-out audience on the Las Vegas strip.

Having bonded over magic back in school, these two firm friends made it to the top and have been performing the same tried and trusted act for the last ten years.

But their magic formula is beginning to wear thin, and when a dangerously edgy street magician who goes by the snappy moniker of Steve Gray: Brain Rapist encroaches on their hallowed Las Vegas turf, Burt and Anton have to reinvent themselves or face performing a disappearing act of their own.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone should be a great comedy; the ensemble cast is pretty ridiculous, with Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini and the peerless Alan Arkin acting as mere supporting acts and a premise that is ripe for parody.

But, somehow, director Don Scardino does the impossible and manages to conjure a film that doesn’t have any real comedy magic.

Partly this is because the modern magician’s pomp was at least ten years ago, so the idea of mocking these Dave Blaine shaped endurance feats feels a little too late.

But the real problem is that both the script and acting throughout The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is just far too predictable, as if both writers and cast are just going through the motions.

Steve Buscemi is fine enough as Burt’s best friend and magic partner Anton Marvel-something, Olivia Wilde opens those beautiful cat like eyes of hers in a stereotypical female role as magician’s assistant come most likely love interest Jane, and then there’s the talented Steve Carell as Burt Wonderstone.

Now I’m a fan of the everyman brand of acting Carell has brought to nigh on all his cinematic roles, but he just seems so utterly bored as a faded magician a la Siegfried and Roy here, that a lot of what I’m supposing were meant to be big laughs fall horribly flat.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone gets better as it goes on, most notably whenever Arkin is around as Burt’s magic hero Rance Holloway, but ultimately it fails to live up to its own name.

Jonathan Campbell

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March 2013
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