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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

I suppose this movie could more accurately be called The Incredibly Uneven but Still Pretty Funny Burt Wonderstone. But as with most mainstream comedies, laughs are the bottom line. This movie delivers plenty. Based on that alone, I can confidently recommend this movie. I mean, as long as you're not a film snob. And if you are, then why the hell are are you reading this review to begin with?

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, while not quite incredible, makes a perfectly enjoyable movie outing. It doesn't challenge the audience but it's not meant to; okay, a couple of times it comes close to insulting the audience's intelligence. So, maybe perfectly is a strong word. In the end, it works. I had a good time. I laughed a lot.

If you really want me to get deeper than that, I will say it suffers from tonal insonsistencies. A great comedy can be very sincere, but that only works when the characters are genuine. As written on the page, these characters don't quite make the cut. Thankfully, the actors make them come alive.

But we start off with flashback scenes from the childhood of Burt Wonderstone, when he befriends his later longtime professional partner in magic, Anton Marvelton. These scenes are decidedly lacking in humor and go full-on for sincerity. Once they're over, the sincerity only gets hinted at for the rest of the movie, and even the hints are contrived.

Still, the movie hits its stride once we're taken to the present day, when Burt and Anton have been performing the very same stage show at Bally's Hotel and Casino for ten years. They're now burnt out and fighting backstage. And Burt, in particular, has been lulled into a famous performer's life of self-delusion. This is precisely what Steve Carell, as Burt, plays masterfully. Carell is a consummate performer and hits all the right notes with admirable restraint. It could even be said that he makes the movie.

Steve Buscemi, as Anton, unfortunately doesn't get nearly as much material to work with; he plays Burt's partner but is gone for large stretches -- usually the times when Burt, having had a falling out with Anton, has found himself in the company of his childhood idol magician, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) at the nursing home he's been reduced to performing at. And then, of course, there's Jim Carrey, looking rather aged (he's 50 now) but still packing manic energy as rival magician Steve Gray.

Steve Gray is so full of the same kinds of bewildering "stunts" that one wonders if he's based on David Blaine. In this world, Gray gets much more of the rock-star treatment, but the clear message is always that his "magic" is shit. That's literally what Rance Holloway calls it, anyway. As long as it's Jim Carrey performing the shit, at least it tends to be funny.

You might not expect it, but Carell actually elicits more laughs than Carrey. Not that it's a contest or that I'm counting or anything. And to be fair, Carell gets far more screen time. Although the two are the same age, Carell is arguably currently a bigger star, although Carrey got much more famous far earlier. His brand of performance is perhaps a better fit in supporting roles anyway; Carrey is very well cast in this movie.

Objectively, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not a great movie. If you look at it with too critical an eye, and it pretty much falls apart. It's frankly dumb. But so what? All we really need to take into account is what the movie is going for: which is to give the viewer a fun couple of hours. That, it does remarkably well.

Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Olivia Wilde show off in THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE.

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