Friday, August 2, 2013

Review 194: "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"

"Now this is a classic."
"Meaning: it's been done."

A Nice Paycheck

      The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the kind of movie that exists solely to give everybody in the cast a little bit more money. Now, granted, I'm not one-hundred percent sure that Steve Carell wasn't dying to make a movie about magicians, but I think we can all agree that he probably wasn't. Anyways, it seems as if magicians are making a comeback between this and Now You See Me, so I guess all that time I spent working on my "Disappearing Interest" trick is finally going to pay off. Directed by Don Scardino (30 Rock) and written by Jonathan M. Goldstein (Horrible Bosses) and John Francis Daley (Bones), the film follows Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and his partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Bushemi), a pair of Vegas magicians. Burt is an egotistical jackass who is shocked to discover that his wealth and fame might be coming to an end thanks to Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), a street magician specializing in body horror. After he's fired and all his friends leave him, Burt is forced to start his career over with the help of his former assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) and his former idol Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin). Together, they plan a trick that will put them back on the map.

Kick-Ass 3: Too Old for This Shit.
Nighty Night

      The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the warm milk of movies. It's safe, mildly comforting and guaranteed to put you to sleep after the first few minutes. And I don't like it that much. This should have been a really funny movie. Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Bushemi, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin?In a movie about funny magicians? This should have been pretty damn funny. But the most it can manage is a chuckle or two every twenty minutes or so. It might because this film began production all the way back in 2006, when the whole Criss Angel/Penn and Teller thing was still relevant and not completely dated before it even was released. It's not to say, however, that the film is a total loss. In fact, it's a fairly likable movie and is completely harmless, like the planet Earth. It does get a few laughs. he cast is pretty great, especially Arkin and Wilde, both natural stars that are the funniest two in this film. 

Timing is Everything

      The problem is, though, that the film just can't seem to pick a tone. It wants to be both a heartwarming underdog comedy and a dark absurd comedy. Wonderstone spends so much of the film a completely moron and a total jerk that it's hard to believe that he can prove to be so smart and kind during his second half redemption. Seeing him be a jerk goes on for too long and as a result, when he turns his life around, it just seems like a totally different character. The film also tends to stay a bit more grounded in it's story. However, Steve Gray seems to exist in a different world, as does the film's third act, during which the film really stretches our disbelief with both Gray's and Wonderstone's ridiculous final tricks. The film also has a problem with pacing. A big pet peeve of mine is when a film poorly shows the passage of time. Here, we hardly get a sense of when these events are taking place, sound seeming like they take place days after the previous scene when really it's been a month. This is due to the fact that the film skips over large portions of the story, skipping Wonderstone's and Marvelton's rise to fame, Jane's character development and leaving Holloway's story largely unresolved.

I don't know whose wig is more ridiculous.
The Verdict
      The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a movie that should by all means be grand, but it just doesn't try. Despite some strong performances and a few funny scenes, the film is just really boring. The structure is a mess, with the pacing confusing, the story missing important parts and the tone wildly all over the place. It can't decide if it wants to be magical or cynical and as a result we get a dull mixture of the two. It might not be bad, but it's not as good as a real magician. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone gets 3 stars out of 6.

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