The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) – Review

3 Stars

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone savagely lampoons the secret fraternity of magicians, in the same hilarious manner as Anchorman parodied 1970’s newsroom etiquette. Much Like Ron Burgandy, Steve Carell’s pompous illusionist of the title is a narcissistic blow-hard, convinced of his own superiority. Wonderstone grew up a bullied boy, who found solace in a magic kit gifted to him from his absentee parents. Aided by his only friend Anton (Steve Buscemi), the pair eventually became so good they were signed to a lavish deal with Bally’s in Las Vegas. For nearly a decade The Burt and Anton Show, subtitled a magical friendship, has been the most popular attraction on the Vegas strip.

Today the performances are one-note, and the stars tired of putting on the same show night after night, they have grown weary of each other and resistant to change. The next generation magician, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) is the hottest name in the business. His cable show Brainrape is a huge hit and his popularity is starting to affect ticket sales to Burt and Anton’s show. Gray is an obvious comedic reference to Chris Angel and David Blaine, their antics are far removed from the more controlled theatrical art of say, David Cooperfield. Burt and Anton’s boss, a hotel magnet Doug Munny (James Gandolfini), gives the duo an ultimatum, change their image or be replaced by fresher talent. This leads to the pairs attempt to perform outrageous physical stunts to keep up with the interests of a younger demographic and fan-base.

The Jim Carrey of yesteryear makes brief appearances throughout the film. His physical comedy is still the best in the world and when he is firing on all cylinders, nobody has been funnier onscreen. It’s a welcomed site to see Carry heave himself forehead first into a nail, or wallow in his hedonistic tendencies to bed every female in the room. Perhaps, the co-starring role freed him from doing all the heavy lifting and allowed the comedic genius to show-up and break loose. Carell is solid in a more subdued type of comedy but he nails it with spot-on arrogance and a dim-wit.

One of my favorite screen presences of all time, Alan Arkin also generates a fair amount of laughs as the once famous old-timer, Rance Halloway. There is a silly romance subplot involving Carell and Olivia Wilde, but that is just filler in-between the hilarious scenes ravaging Vegas showbiz life and Carrey acting a fool. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone may not have the vicious satirical bite of Death to Smoochy, but its a lot funnier and sweeter than anything from Farrell or Sandler in years.

Director: Don Scardino
Stars: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey

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