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Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – It’s Kinda Magic
When I first heard about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, I was excited. Carrell, Carrey and Buscemi all in the same comedy sounded amazing but the plot reminded me of another movie; British comedy, Magicians (2007), which starred comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb, was also about a magic duo who fall out over their act. Personally I enjoyed Magicians but I was hoping that Burt Wonderstone, it’s American counterpart, could better it.
Burt is a kid with a crappy childhood until, one day, he gets a magic kit for his birthday. He learns all the tricks and impresses another boy at school, Anton, and from there on, their friendship becomes a magical one.
It all goes well for Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) – they land a huge contract on the Las Vegas Strip but ten years later, they’re still doing the same, washed-out act. A new type of magician is popular now, stuntman Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), is fresh, exciting and drives Wonderstone and Marvelton out of work. Thus begins the battle between traditional magic and modern magic. The duo try to compete with Gray, but end up publicly humiliating themselves so Burt and Anton go their separate ways.
Burt tries to get work, but no one wants him – he seeks help from his assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) but even she kicks him out. Burt ends up having to work in a retirement home, where old Las Vegas performers go to die. As luck would have it, the magician who created Burt’s childhood magic kit, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), is living there. Holloway is the man Burt needs, to show him once more why he fell in love with magic in the first place.
Buscemi and Carell are well-cast as the failing magic duo – Burt is egotistical, selfish and spoilt. He spends his time sleeping with fans, ordering room service and generally not caring about any one but himself. Buscemi is also great as the sweet but stupid Anton but sadly, we don’t really get to see enough of him, as the movie focuses on Burt a little too much. Obviously the movie is named after Wonderstone but Buscemi feels wasted here.
Jim Carrey as the obvious mick-take of illusionist David Blaine, steals the show by far with his crazy stunts which, Burt and Anton argue, isn’t really magic. There’s nothing magical about holding your urine in for 24 hours, but Steve Gray aims to shock his audience in a gruesome way, which is a sadly realistic look at what people want from magicians today.
To truly appreciate Burt Wonderstone, you have to be a fan of magic, there’s a lot of magician-based jokes as you might expect, including a cameo by David Copperfield. Burt Wonderstone roots for traditional magic although the tricks shown in the movie, are ridiculous and impossible of course – I would certainly be impressed if any one can conjure a dove out of a salt shaker.
Without giving anything away, the plot as you can imagine is pretty predictable, but there are plenty of laughs to keep you entertained. The first half is arguably better than the second, but Carell makes sure The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is heart-warming and funny throughout. So, is it better than 2007’s Magicians? It’s very different, almost too different to compare – Burt Wonderstone is full of American glitz and glamour whereas Magicians contains the exact opposite. I wouldn’t recommend taking a trip to the cinema to see Burt Wonderstone, but it’s definitely worth catching when it comes out on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s perfect for those evenings when you want to watch a movie that will make you laugh and relax, not think.
I must warn you, when you do see it, expect to have Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra” in your head for several days afterwards.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone hits cinemas on March 15.