"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" Review: No Magic in Me
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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review: No Magic in Me

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | March 15, 2013 | Comments ()


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is painfully trifling, a nothing of a film that wastes the talents of Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, and especially Alan Arkin. It's worse than a formulaic comedy because it never even finds the formulaic groove: It whirs and spins, and though it tries very hard to hit those familiar beats, it remains listless and off key. It never really builds toward anything; it can't even successfully muster a big, contrived closing sequence. Burt Wonderstone coughs then dies with a big, wet raspy thud of disappointment.

Wonderstone stars Steve Carell in the title role, a man who has been working he same magic show in Vegas for over a decade, who has -- along with his partner Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) -- fallen into a malaise. He's numb, and even the bickering with Marvelton has become rote.

Enter Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), a man who is less a magician than a man who got lost on the way to the Jackass set. He doesn't perform magic; he does stunts. He goes a week without pissing; he uses his head as a nail; he sleeps on hot coals; he allows himself to be a human piƱata. It's a role Jim Carrey was born to play, and yet Jim Carrey doesn't even seem to care about investing much of himself in it besides his usual blend of manic and mugging.

For reasons that are not apparent from what's onscreen, audiences are captivated with Grey, and Wonderstone's lagging ticket sales plus his refusal to add any new tricks into his show leads to his dismissal. He and his partner split up, and Wonderstone is eventually reduced to performing card tricks in a retirement home, where he runs into Rance Holloway (Arkin), the magician who inspired Wonderstone as a child, and who helps him to find the sene of "wonder and awe" again.

The problem is that there is never that sense of awe and wonder in the film. Carell implements one of those schticky comedian voices that serves no purpose other than to grate, which makes it impossible to sympathize with the character even once he transforms himself into a "likable" magician. He's annoying; Buscemi's character is annoying; Jim Carrey's character is super annoying; and Olivia Wilde is not even given enough to work with to rise to the level of annoying, although the idea that she might fall for Wonderstone is annoying. It's an hour-and-a-half collection of annoying tics and voices from annoying people doing annoying things, and the magic isn't even good.

That's the biggest travesty here: It's a movie about magic with uninspired magic tricks. It feels like the screenwriters -- Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley -- had in their minds the idea to make a movie that celebrates old-school, rabbit-out-of-a-hat magic and contrast it with the new generation of Criss Angel-like Illusionists, who don't so magic so much as torture themselves. It fails in part because the magic is bad, but also because the magicians -- Carell, Buscemi, and Wilde -- don't bring any chemistry or magnetism to their roles. Carell and Carrey both feel like the old-school magicians resigned to being put out to pasture, and instead of fighting, they shrug and accept their trajectories. There's a lot of magic in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but nobody bothers to bring it to life.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • anikitty

    Would Will Ferrell in the lead have been better?

  • BWeaves

    Rent "Make Believe" instead. It's a cute documentary about teenage magicians. The foreign kids are amazing.

  • Skyler Durden

    I thought Carrey was the best part of the movie.

    (And his body is BANANAS. WOULD HIT FURIOUSLY)

    Unfortunately, he is completely miscast! In a story about traditional vs modern / old vs young, it makes NO sense for your antagonist to be the same age as your hero! It defies all logic. His character is supposed to be a hot young upstart, yet Jim Carrey is a year OLDER than Steve Carrell.

  • Robert

    This is what happens when someone with no actual interest in stage magic writes a comedy making fun of stage magic. Nothing feels authentic because there's no research at all on the screen. One trick in a 90 minute film worked for me and it would be possible to do with some minor tweaks in real life. Everything else was magic straight out of the kit (which was part of the point, but makes for boring cinema) or a play on Las Vegas spectacle that doesn't reflect even the period of magical spectacle they're mocking. It's a total misfire.

  • annie

    It had a few good moments, but true. It doesn't go anywhere at all. There were a few brief passing moments, but, eh. How disappointing.

  • Maya

    Has Olivia Wilde ever been in a good movie? I mean, I like her, but she seems to pick really bad projects.

  • Butter.

  • Skyler Durden

    I liked her in Butter...

  • annie

    No. And trust me, I've seen them all. I want them to be good. But no.

  • Maya

    Here's hoping that 'Drinking Buddies' will be good as Dustin says it is.

  • Honey Nut Ichiros

    Hahahahahahahaha. Barry Bostwick.

  • OhSayNow

    Poof Goof of the Year?

  • BlackRabbit

    An abra cadaver?

  • They did this on Supernatural in an episode called "Criss Angel is a Douche Bag", with Barry Bostwick as the aging magician. Only the acting was good, there was great suspense, one laugh out loud funny moment, and the twist at the end was excellent. So I'd recommend watching that, instead.

  • Zen

    At this point SPN is becoming The Simpsons of sci-fi/fantasy. Siren strippers? Supernatural did it. Killer clowns? Supernatural did it. Racist truck? You betcha.

  • Not to mention UFOs and a pantheistic smorgasbord. Half the reason to watch is to see what they come up with next.

  • annie

    Has it ever actually been UFOs, though? I thought it was really fairies or tricksy gods/archangels.

  • Good point. Seems the only things not real in SPN are UFOs and Bigfoot. I hope they never bring in Bigfoot.

  • annie

    Shhh, don't put that out into the universe. They have at least one more season to write, and they're running out of ideas.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Answer: Lesbian fairies at a LARP weekend.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Killer clowns? Supernatural did it.


  • e jerry powell

    Plus: Barry Bostwick. It makes everything more magical.

  • apsutter

    Why can't Jim Carrey go back to making movies like Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine? And I hope Steve Carell finds his groove soon.

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