I went into the theater with low expectations for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. After my disappointing romp with James Franco, I needed something lighter to cleanse the palette. I love Steve Carell and he’s been called the nicest man in Hollywood, so I thought I would give him a chance with this Burt Wonderstone movie. It has Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin, as well as Olivia Wilde as the love interest and Jim Carrey as an insane magician. How bad could it be?
It turned out to be a lovely, little, knee slapper with some definite laugh-out-loud moments and a hint of black humor that kept it from tipping over into corny territory.
Check out the trailer and then read my review after the jump!
We see a young Burt (Steve Carell) use magic to escape a pretty lame childhood. He finds a kindred spirit in Anton (Steve Buscemi)and they become a magic duo! Twenty years later Burt and Anton have hit it big but after playing the same illusions night after night, Burt has become nothing short of a dick. Magic has lost its magic. He hires and fires hot assistants and berates staff. He bones audience members and even snubs his boss.
It was a delight to see Carell play the “bad guy” the tension with which he holds himself, and then slowly transforms his character back into a human being, is magical acting. It’s not all that subtle, but that is what enhances the comedic element. Carell’s innate “good guy” nature helps make the transformation more believable. The other actors contribute their piece. Steve Buscemi gets in a few good lines playing straight man to Carell’s Burt. Olivia Wilde’s character, Jane, is a bit one-dimensional, but she is the only female in this story. Even though the movie made a clumsy stab for gender equality there isn’t much substance for her to work with. Standouts in the film are Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin and Carell. Jim Carrey also gets to play a bad guy with relenting honesty. His character, Steve Gray, is a Chris Angel type magician; more interested in gross-out stunts than actual magic. We see a glimmer of Carrey’s old Ace Ventura days, presented to us in a more subdued way and it works very well. Alan Arkin gets to play the fading magician who helps Burt love magic again. One of the funniest moments in the movie is a gesture he makes, impossible to describe here, that tells Burt Wonderstone he’s a schmuck.
How It Ends:
We get our happy ending. Burt Wodnerstone vanquishes his rival, re-friends his best friend, falls in love with Jane and learns to love magic again. Not any big revelation there. The themes of retaining your childhood wonder and not letting fame turn you into a flaming dick are not played out too subtly. No great thinking is required for the movie and the payoff is not the ultimate goal. This is a funny and fun ride through great characters and actors and an entertaining plot that makes them happen. The film and director Don Scardino do a great job of walking that fine line between black comedy, wholesome entertainment (there was a kid next to me in the theater), and the cast’s collective comedic genius. Pitch perfect. I couldn’t ask for any more.
7 magical magician’s kits out of 10