Wes Reviews: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Running time: 100 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident, and language

Stars: 2 out of 4

In the 1980s, a middle-schooler with no friends, absent parents, and plenty of bullies is able to find solace in the wonderful comfort of a magic kit that has been endorsed by the famous magician, Rance Holloway, played by Alan Arkin. This kid soon finds another outcast at school who is just as amazed and intrigued by magic as he is. They soon form a deep friendship and grow up to be played by Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi. Being show business partners, they get a steady gig in a Las Vegas hotel (run by “The Sopranos” guy). Cut to present day and they are still working there. However, they have lost sight of the magic and Steve Carell is now a womanizing jerk. Further, their audiences start to dwindle because of people like Steve Gray, a street magician played by Jim Carrey. The hotel manager, who doesn’t care about anything but money, is quite interested in Steve Gray. Will they be able to find themselves again and hold onto their jobs or will they lose it all?

As it turns out, this makes for a very, very bland movie—not because of what it is about, but because of how it all comes together, or doesn’t. There is a way to both honor and make fun of the magic scene, but this movie misses the mark (unlike the way “Ed Wood” both parodied and gave honor to the “worst director of all time”). The movie is just as bad as the bullies in the beginning of the movie.

Well, OK, the movie is worse because it is hypocritical on multiple levels. For example, it shows Olivia Wilde’s character being pushed to the sidelines and cries “fowl” just as it does the same. Worse in a way, it asks us to root for Steve Carell’s jerk character, Burt Wonderstone, while rooting against Jim Carrey’s Gray character—without giving us all the necessary information. We know that Burt has an innocent kid somewhere inside of him only because we saw the beginning of the movie. We have no idea on the past of Steve Gray because the movie does not want us to think about it.

Plus, the purpose of Steve Gray is two-fold. First of all, he is the villain of the piece. This does not work since his character is really only a notch worse than Burt himself. Secondly, Steve Gray acts as this movie’s comic relief. This can be seen in both the gratuitous nature of his scenes (they do not move the plot forward) and in how they are spaced out throughout most of the movie. The fact that Jim Carrey is so effective at being comic relief for this movie speaks to how weak so much of this movie is. Even though, as usual, Carrey overdoes it a bit, he is the probably the best part of this movie. A parody of both David Blain (with his stupid endurance stunts and self-seriousness) and Criss Angel (with his bad fashion sense and terrible hair), Carrey is quite effective. I only wish that this part of the movie could have been extended and toned down a bit (for the sake of any sort of subtlety).

The main kicker for this movie though is its message. Bit of the spoiler here, but it if you did not see redemption for Burt Wonderstone coming, you have probably never (ever, ever) seen a movie. Anyway, his redemption comes from being reminded by his magician hero, Rance Holloway, to remember why he fell in love with magic to begin with. Was it not the idea that anything could happen? Hint: it was.

Well, that is all very nice, but it would have been better if this movie could have taken its own message to heart, especially with its bland directing and uninspired screenplay.