Movie Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Confirmed Good)

            Do you remember what it was like as a kid to be completely caught up in the wonder of magic? I used to beg my parents to let me watch the magic specials that used to come on TV in the 90’s and early 2000’s. They were some of my absolute favorite TV specials. There is just something completely enchanting about seeing something that you know cannot be real, happen right before your eyes. There is a part in all of us (except you cynics, you take all the fun out of everything!) that believes, even if it’s just a small part. And Burt Wonderstone pulls at that part in all of us. More to come after the break…

     The movie begins in the early 1980’s, when Burt is a young boy in elementary school being bullied by older boys. He is a sad, latchkey kid, pretty much raising himself when he receives a magic kit from his mother for his birthday. This kit brings a ray of hope into Burt’s life as his eyes are opened to the joy and amazement of performing magic. He meets another little boy, who is just as awed by magic as he is, and they become fast friends. The two boys grow up into The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marlevton, the hottest act in Las Vegas.
     Now as adults, Burt (Steve Carell) and Anton’s (Steve Buscemi) friendship is on the brink of crumbling apart along with both of their magic careers because Burt has turned into a crass, womanizing jerk who only cares about himself, money, and sex. A new magician has come in town, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) who is stealing the spotlight from Burt and Anton’s act. In order to look hip and regain the interest of the younger crowd, Burt and Anton decide to do a daring stunt called The Hotbox. After it goes ridiculously wrong, Anton is left severely injured and Burt, once again, doesn’t take any responsibility for their problems. Anton quits the partnership as he is rolled away on a stretcher.
     The next couple of weeks become a steady decline into obscurity and minimum wage for Burt and he finds himself working as an entertainer at an assisted living home. In this home Burt meets Rance Holloway, Burt’s childhood hero and the creator of the magic kit that started him down the path of magic. Through rediscovering his love for magic, Burt begins to put his life back together, and through magic and friendship Burt finally has the courage to face Steve Gray one last time.

            If you are looking for a movie that is ridiculously crazy, wildly hilarious, and all together completely awesome, then this is not the movie for you. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a lot like cold pizza, all the promises of a delicious meal with no follow through. The character of Burt, when we first see him, is completely audience winning. We see a small boy being picked on by bigger, mean boys and automatically we are on Burt’s side (who hasn’t been pick on by bullies?). Once the bullies have left, young Burt begins to cry and our hearts break for him.  We are won over to him and Anton as the “underdogs.” The next thing we know Burt has grown up into a complete jerk and all our sympathy goes out the window. This sudden character change leaves the audience feeling confused and disoriented.

           Jim Carrey’s character, Steve Gray, is a funny parody of street magicians like David Blaine, but his crazy, often dark and gory, stunts are completely off kilter with the rest of the movie’s tone. He’s character is hard to enjoy because it’s used more for shock value than for facilitating plot. The rivalry between Gray and Wonderstone is an important aspect of the entire story and yet the movie falls very short of explaining or expounding upon it. The audience is just expected to assume this great rivalry. One scene where Wonderstone and Gray go head to head is at a birthday party for a prominent Las Vegas hotel owner’s son. We think there will be a very obvious throwing down of the gauntlet but unfortunately this doesn’t happen.

Dang Carrey, not bad for 51!

            The actual moments of magic in this movie are slightly disappointing.  I was very excited to see the magic in this film, mainly because I just adore magic. I was sadly disillusioned when I realized the magic was never really shot to look like plausible acts. The camera zooms in or out or flies by in a way that the movie audience can not keep up with the trick and we are never convinced that this is believable magic, it’s just “movie” magic. I think it could have been much more effective if the tricks had been filmed as actual acts. It would have added an extra umph.

Got to love that mullet! 
      Besides a few unfocused aspects of the movie, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, is a delightful feel good movie about friendship, being a genuine person, and finding the magic in what we love. My absolute favorite scene in the entire movie is when Burt meets his idol, Rance Holloway, for the first time in the assisted living home. All we have seen of the adult Burt Wonderstone so far is an egotistical, spoiled man, but for the first time, we see that mask drop completely and Burt becomes a humble man sitting at the feet of the one person who changed his life. Carrel does a beautiful job of instantly becoming that vulnerable kid, desperately trying to establish value in himself. It truly is a great moment of genuine acting, even if it is in a feel good comedy.

     The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, is a decent film, especially if you are looking for something to pick your spirits up. My colleagues and I found this film to be quite enjoyable to watch. There are a few moments in the film where we were laughing out loud and it left us smiling as we walked out of the theater but I must say we are glad we only paid $5.50 to see it. If you want to see this film, wait for it to move into the dollar theater or until it comes out on video and rent it.

Friendship is Magic!

In her spare time Generbeener enjoys designing cosplay costumes and special effects makeup.

An addendum: My sincerest apologies for completely leaving out Olivia Wilde in my original review of this movie. I promise it was completely by mistake and y'know sometimes we just have those moments. Olivia does a decent job of playing Jane, a former stage production manager for Burt and Anton's show turned "lovely assistant, Nicole," turned magic partner. I think the main reason I forgot about her was because of just that, her character is forgettable. Jane exists for one main reason, to reflect the character growth of Burt. When they first interact, Burt believes that she will just fall head over heels for him and she will do anything he wants her too. Her response is priceless, "I worshiped you for 10 years and you've made me hate you in 60 seconds." As Burt's character growth progresses we see and very marked change in how he treats her. He actually begins to call her Jane instead of "Nicole". He becomes sensitive as opposed to brutish. Other than that, Jane is just a pretty face to draw males to the movie. Take her character out and I think you would have pretty much the same movie just without any kind of romantic interest. 

Ooo! Love the hat!


  1. Why does this review not mention Olivia Wilde? Olivia Wilde is always worth mentioning!!!


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