1/20/14

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE - REVIEW


Here's one it took me a while to finally watch.

The idea of Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as crappy magicians duelling with a Jim Carrey David Blaine parody sounded great but somehow I missed it. Having finally seen it, I'm not entirely sure as to why the film exists but it did have its moments.

The film opens on Carrell and Buscemi as kids with the former picking up a boxed magic set presented by a Houdini-style magician (played by Alan Arkin) and developing a passion for that particular occupation. We cut to present day where both friends have partnered up and are now in-house magicians over at some fancy Vegas hotel: they've been doing their act for years and, although they're good at it, it's clearly dated and the arrival of a new stunt-based magician steals their thunder to the point where they're soon separated and out of a job. Oh, and along the way Olivia Wilde shows up. It's a good story with some great characters so the film definitely had the potential to be tons of fun. Carrell plays a different type of character than he usually does, mercifully, his Burt Wonderstone being a camp yet talented and obscenely proud rich dude who loses it all and is forced to find his humanity again after basically hitting rock bottom. As for Jim Carrey, he's funnier than he's been in a long time, happily playing a clueless douche willing to pull off absurd stunts in the name of magic like stopping himself from peeing for days, digging into his skin with a knife and pulling out playing cards, even drilling into his own head!

The film is a weird one in that at times it feels kid-friendly and at other times the humour is very adult, going into dark places every so often. The whole first five minutes of the film is reminiscent of those flashbacks you often see in Adam Sandler movies except without the jokes. It's surprisingly earnest and, as nice as it is that the film truly cares and likes its main character, it probably would have been much more effective as a comedy had it gone full-caricature and not developed Burt Wonderstone too much. It's like when Ron Burgundy turns out to have morals in Anchorman 2: that's just... odd. You've got some very funny moments in this movie which really show that this one had the potential to be the anti-Now You See Me but it turns out to be far more sensible and heartfelt than it probably needed to be. And to think that this could have been the perfect satire to the likes of The Illusionist and The Prestige. The late, great James Gandolfini has a nice role in the film and do look out for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo appearance by David Copperfield. The whole cast is very strong, Carell, Buscemi, Carrey, Arkin and Wilde all bring a lot to their characters and you've got enough fun things in this movie to make it worth a watch. It won't always be hilarious and tongue-in-cheek but when it works, it works surprisingly well.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a fun little movie but it could have easily been a laugh riot, it just needed to keep a meaner, more vicious tone throughout instead of trying to shoe-horn in a romance and (yuck!) proper character development. Did they not realise how silly their film's title sounded?

Not bad, Carrey and Carell are fab.

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