Every time I trot out a recent comedy I talk about how I don’t watch much comedy anymore and how I really should see more. So I’ll skip all that and just say that I watched THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE. On with the review…


I watched THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (2013) on 6.19.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

There was a time I would race to the theater to see a new Jim Carrey film. I wish that were still a modern phenomenon, but sadly it is probably something I abandoned around the time of DICK AND JANE. This one, on its merits, seemed like a cool idea.

Carrey is the villainous street magician Steve Gray (an extreme Criss Angel clone). The traditional magicians are long time friends Burt (Steve Carell) and Anton (Steve Buscemi). Burt and Anton have a Vegas show which has grown stale after a decade of doing the same thing over and over again. They are fighting and losing their following. Sort of. The movie shows a full house and then it shows Steve doing a single outdoor show and then it shows a nearly empty house. The script handles time oddly, almost like it does not matter.

The female interest is Jane (Olivia Wilde) who, get this, Burt always calls by the wrong name. Hilarious!

But I suppose that isn’t being entirely fair. BURT WONDERSTONE is a fine enough throwback comedy to a time when the plot was a string-thin idea on which to hang some characters. When this film tries to be more, specifically when the aging patriarch of magic Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) is introduced, it manages to succeed. But these moments are few and far between.

Ironically, Carell’s titular character is the worst thing about this film. Buscemi and Carrey do justice to their roles. Arkin is great as ever. Wilde, again, proves herself a strong leading lady capable of being funny and the straight gal. But Wonderstone, as a character, is someone we are taught to hate before we can begrudgingly love him. The movie derides street magic in the person of Steve Gray only to have someone who is more loathsome than the protagonist. Carell, as always, does a nice job of ultimately reeling this guy in and making an unlikable character sympathetic. Yet, in this particular instance, it doesn’t need to go as far as it does.

There is also the issue of putting magic on film. This is a problem which the more dramatically themed NOW YOU SEE ME had. Magic is a personal thing. If you are going to shoot it you better use long takes and show us that you aren’t cheating. The bits in BURT WONDERSTONE all cheat, making the magic irrelevant. The  movie seems to be aware of this. It makes our heroes’ final trick something the viewing audience a part of. This actually works until it turns mean spirited in the final moments.

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE is something I stumbled onto tonight on HBO. In that capacity, it is fine. I understand why those who paid money to see it in a theater were disappointed. Go in with your expectations low and you will find some laughs and some worthwhile moments. Hope for classic Carell or Carrey and you will be sadly underwhelmed.




FINAL SCORE: 5.5 out of 10



~ by johnlink00 on June 19, 2014.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (2013)”

  1. Some of it was funny, some of it wasn’t. That’s as simple as it gets really. Good review John.

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