I was really looking forward to The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and not just because it’s set in Vegas, (one of my favorite cities) and that I visited it in January. The cast is definitely A-list – it includes Steve Buscemi, Steve Carell, Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini, and Jim Carrey, among others – and the trailer looked extremely funny. Unfortunately, Burt ended up being a case of all of its jokes being in the trailer, and the rest of the movie just being so-so.
Burt Wonderstone (Carell) decides at a young age that “magicians are cool,” and he becomes friends and magic partners with Anton Marvelton (Buscemi), after learning from an instructional video by Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), a famous magician. Flash forward thirty years later, and the two have been the headlining act at Bally’s in Las Vegas for the past decade. Their boss and the owner of Bally’s, Doug Munny (Gandolfini), however, thinks that they need to do something new to draw in ticket sales, and they decide to do a public stunt, which of course goes awry, ending with Marvelton being injured and very angry at Burt. Burt tries to do their magic act alone (with hilarious results, actually), but of course it fails, since it’s a 2-person show, and Doug kicks him out. He’s left trying to decide if he even wants to do magic anymore, and trying to find as many gigs as he can; he ends up taking a regular gig at an assisted living home, where he runs into Rance Holloway, and the 10th birthday party of Doug’s son.
The actors in this movie were all great, and I think that if they had been given more to work with, the movie could have been great as well. Jim Carrey is completely over the top as Steve Grey, a Vegas street magician who mostly does shocking things, like sleeping on hot coals, rather than “actual” magic. I had heard that he had to almost starve himself for the role, and he looks super skinny in the film. The two Steves (Carell and Buscemi) make a good team, and Gandolfini had a small but effective part as their boss. Olivia Wilde also stars as Carell’s magic assistant, who later proves she can do magic on her own.
Maybe see this film. Some parts were genuinely funny, like when Carell tries to do the exact same 2-person magic show but with 1 person. The ending is good, too, as a particularly difficult magic trick is revealed. I got a kick out of seeing Vegas on the big screen – the “Burt and Anton Theater” at Bally’s, where I stayed in January, is actually the Jubilee Theater in real life, and even the script/font is the same (they must have superimposed over it, or something) – and a lot of the actual Vegas hotels were shown, with the exception of the new Doug Casino, started by Gandolfini’s character. My main problem with Burt Wonderstone is that although bits and pieces were funny, these are all top-notch actors – the movie probably would not have been as funny if other actors were in it – and they are deserving of a better vehicle in which to showcase their talents.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is in theaters today, March 15th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 100 minutes. 2.5 stars out of 5.
Liz is a University of Michigan graduate with a degree in Creative Writing and Literature, and she loves going to the movies. She is the owner and writer of a film website, Yes/No Films, which was started in January 2010, and she also is a guest movie reviewer for several other web sites. Liz writes book reviews for blogher.com and on her own book blog. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her @yesnofilms.