'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' (2013) Movie Review

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone movie review
Steve Buscemi and Steve Carell in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Photo: Warner Bros.

The talent involved suggests you're probably going to get something funnier than The Incredible Burt Wonderstone ends up being. Alternatively the film's awful marketing campaign, would suggest the opposite. In the end I guess it's a wash as it's hardly the disaster I expected it to be, but not exactly a show-stopper.

Burt Wonderstone plays nicely for its 100 minute running time despite the fact it never really hits many high notes and the funnier moments are funny as a result of arbitrary behavior rather than well-developed setups. Nevertheless, I laughed enough to call this a slightly above average comedy... it's up to you to decide if that's worth your dollars.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Grade: C+

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" is a New Line Cinema release, directed by Don Scardino and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language. The running time is .

The cast includes Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, Steve Buscemi, James Gandolfini, Brad Garrett, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr and Gillian Jacobs.

Directed by longtime television helmer Don Scardino ("30 Rock") and written by Horrible Bosses scribes, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Burt Wonderstone is far from high concept. A pair of bullied young kids find a shared joy in magic as children and grow up to live the lives afforded them by their Las Vegas stage names -- Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), a duo clearly inspired by the theatrics of Vegas magicians Siegfried & Roy. Of course, there must be a falling out in a story of this sort.

Once the closest of friends, Burt and Anton's friendship crumbles thanks in large part to Burt's massive ego as well as their outdated performances, which had them playing to a half-filled auditorium. They go their separate ways and the story will bring them back together, but that's the stereotypical backbone to the story you expect. Where this film tends to mildly excel is in its supporting characters, mainly those played by Jim Carrey and Alan Arkin with a couple of nice contributions from Olivia Wilde.

Carrey plays street magician Steve Gray who is clearly something of an amalgamation of Criss Angel and David Blaine whose "tricks" largely involve violent self-mutilation servicing as the punchline. These tricks and the pain his character suffers for his "craft" are less the comedic bonus than are Gray's smaller contributions, such as a scene in which he insults Burt and Anton at a bar only to turn and float out the door. You don't see his feet, only his head and erect torso on a steady line. Okay, it's not so much funny as it is random and stupid, but I loved it.

Some jokes do grow increasingly tiresome, such as Burt continuing to call Olivia Wilde's character Nicole even though her name is Jane, but the extended punchline has a decent payoff later in the film once Jane must start working as Gray's assistant to make ends meet. For that matter, most of the moments involving Carrey work as the bizarre nature of every scene involving him are so over-the-top, smaller jokes around them can't help but work.

Carell's back-and-forth with Arkin as Wonderstone's childhood inspiration Rance Holloway also works, both for Holloway's aged, acidic nature, Arkin's talents for delivering such lines and the overall relationship developed, which gives the film a modicum of heart. These are the small joys in a film that could have been so much worse had Scardino not been able to attract the talent he did.

If the film suffers, it's in its setup. Even though the market isn't flooded with magician comedies, little of this felt new. A one-time great entertainer past his prime and unwilling to change falls on hard times only to find his fire rekindled by the source of his original inspiration... and a woman. I mean, we're talking Screenwriting 101 here. I'd also argue the Carell and Wilde love connection is a little hard to swallow considering the 22 years that separate them, but these are all reasons this film only hovers around average and nothing more.

You could do a lot worse than Burt Wonderstone or you could skip it and wait for DVD, either way I think you get the point. If you're a fan of Carell his character's off-putting nature may cause you to dislike this film more than like it, but fans of Carrey's antics are likely to walk away satisfied, though not over-joyed.


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  • Alex Thomas

    Glad you laughed a decent amount Brad, I agree with basically everything you said except I very rarely laughed. I did seem to smile a lot though and while I think it was a very average film, I couldn't say I hated it.

    The love connection is kind of silly, at least they did try to justify it with the fact she idolized him growing up. Gets a C from me.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    This is really the only comedy I've been looking forward to. I haven't watched the trailers because I heard they were awful, but I was interested because of the talent involved. I'll probably catch this one at the $5 matinee show.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mv11391/ Michael

    Glad you founded it above average, i've been interested in this mainly because of Carell & Carrey. Will see this soon.

  • Jake

    Terrible marketing campaign, what exactly happened to Carrey's movie career- I know a bunch of movies like used guys never got made

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/jaybob/ jaybob

      What happened to Carrey was that he wanted to be a "serious actor" and threw away his talent and gift for comedy to appease critics. So he became just another good actor in a long line of good actors.

  • Yaz

    Looking forward to this. Haven't seen Carrey on the big screen in ages and I'm a big fan of Carell's work!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ryguy815/ Ryguy815

    Glad to hear that you kind of enjoyed it Brad! I'm seeing this Sunday and I hope I enjoy it too!

  • Torryz

    Carell hasn't made a decent funny movie since 40 Year Old Virgin. This is another of his misses.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/samlane/ samlane

      Really? Not Little Miss Sunshine or, to a lesser extent, Dan in Real Life? Get Smart and Date Night had a few good laughs. Crazy, Stupid Love and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World were good for what they were. I mean none of these were great films, but we're not talking great, we're talking, as you said, decent. I think all of these would apply. Burt Wonderstone probably wasn't as good as most, or any of these, but I'd say it was decent.

  • Zhash Johnson

    I'm I the only one annoyed by all off these R-rated comedies? Studios seem to think that more swearing and stronger sexual content makes a movie funny. I have nothing against raunchy humour. I just think a movie shouldn't have nudity and sexual content for the sake of it. That why I was excited when I heard that this movie was PG-13.

  • WalkedOut

    I walked out. And I rarely walk out. I kept thinking there was going to be a movie here. Love me some Steve Carell, and I do not blame him or his amazing talent. But this was just a disappointment.