Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone


Sleight of Hand

6.5 out of 10 | Rental

Rated: PG-13 Sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.
Release Date: March 15, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 41 minutes

Director: Don Scardino
Writers: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chad Kultgen, Tyler Mitchell
Cast: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr

SYNOPSIS: Magician Burt Wonderstone splits from his longtime stage partner after a guerrilla street magician steals their thunder. By spending some time with his boyhood idol, Burt looks to remember what made him love magic in the first place.

REVIEW: Small screen director Don Scardino, known for Royal Pains and 30 Rock, takes the stage for the silver screen to bring Steve Carell (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) into the spotlight with another possible comedy hit. Written by the team of Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses), with Tyler Mitchell (My Own Worst Enemy) and Chad Kultgen (Southern Comfort) supplying the story, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone hopes to be true to its namesake.  

Young Albert is the focus of many bullies during his young life. On a lonely 10th birthday Albert receives the Rance Holloway Magic Kit which changes his young life forever. Dedicating his life to magic, he befriends another young boy who is the target and scorn of other kids in the school. Together, they master the tricks and start coming up with their own inventions of illusion. Fast forward 10 years and the duo, now called the Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell, Date Night) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi, Hotel Transylvania), are happy to have become one of the major acts in Las Vegas. For years they ruled the Strip with their 'Magical Friendship' show. But when ticket sales slump and the magic tricks become dated, Bert and Anton have to face the fact that their act is no longer relevant. Enter Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, Mr. Popper's Penguins), a Chris Angel-esque street magician, who takes the art of illusion for the next extreme level. Unable to compete with what's the target demographic of 18 to 45 want to see, Burt and Anton suffer a fracture in their own friendship causing Anton to disappear from the business while Burt struggles with obscurity. When Burt, now forced to perform magic at a convalescent home, discovers that his magical idol Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin, Stand Up Guys) is a resident there he starts to realize that what inspired him to become a magician in the first place is really the most important thing.

Steve Carell, finding himself a more quirky character than that of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World or Little Miss Sunshine, faces the challenge of a more sleight of hand role. As a head-lining magician and a Las Vegas casino staple, Carell's Wonderstone is not really a likable character at the start. The fact of Wonderstone being down and out still doesn't do much to sway the audience to his side. It's only when Wonderstone rediscovers what he has been missing, in his act, his friendships, and his personal life, does he become sympathetic and an underdog to root for. Anton, Wonderstone's partner in magic and longtime friends, knows exactly where Wonderstone heart lies. Olivia Wilde (The Words), as the stage manager Jane/magician's assistant Nicole, finds that her love of her own idol Burt Wonderstone is really just an illusion after all. Jim Carrey, as the street magician Steve Gray, adds some hijinks and a little conflict - but really is more silly than anything else. Alan Arkin's Holloway does a good job with this snarky retired magician who discovered that his loss of the love of his craft was secondary to losing himself to a loveless mundane show.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone tries to be silly, succeeding on some levels. It's relative clean fun, from the stage show opening dance moves to the song 'Abracadabra', to Jim Carrey's Gray looking to outdo himself at every turn to comic effect, to a magicians' duel involving a Yorky puppy, to the reveal of the final trick at the end of the film. There are a few laughs in the flick, but not enough to make it up uproarious comedy.

Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi work well together, showing us the illusion of some good chemistry on screen. Olivia Wilde's Jane enters a partnership of these two illusionists with reverence, skepticism, and eventual disappointment, always trying to see Wonderstone as someone who could still be the best if he wanted to. But her chemistry with Carell's Wonderstone seems a little forced, not as important to the flow of the story. The conflict between  Doug Munny (James Gandolfini, Killing Them Softly)
 and extreme illusionist Gray give the story something to do, but neither carry the story strong enough to get the job done. You have to love Arkin, though, in his snarky senior citizen's ways.

With a cameo from David Copperfield as a real magician, it is interesting to see that the art of illusion goes beyond just parlor tricks, sleight-of-hand, and grand illusion. Evident are bold velvet suits, capes, and as many rhinestones as one could costume can muster. Watching Carell dance poorly on stage before leading up to an actual allusions just goes to show you how much showmanship is needed to keep an audience enthralled between every trick's prestige. Just as the audiences become more jaded about the magic they want to see, Burt and Anton's stage antics lose their comic luster just as quickly. From Rance Holloway's caped master magician, to Burt Wonderstone's feathered hair and sequined velvet, to Steve Gray's grunge street illusionist, we get a timelines of the evolution of theatrical magic.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a story of magical friendships, the ever-changing art of illusion, and the cost of losing passion for one's profession. Although there's a few laughs and silly sequences throughout the movie, the story lags. Not unlike the stage direction between tricks, Burt Wonderstone leaves us waiting for the comic payoffs.

I am a fan of Steven Carell's work on both the small screen and the big screen, but Burt Wonderstone is, unfortunately, not that incredible. If you want to know the secret behind the tricks of the 'Disappearing Audience', you may want to wait for the rental.

1 comment:

  1. A really good entertainer. I agree that Jim Carrey's magic acts where a bit too violent for a family movie, overall the movie succeeded in entertaining the entire group. The attempt at humour at times seems over-the-top but in a movie about entertainers, this is acceptable.