When a street magician’s stunt begins to make their show look stale, superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton look to salvage on their act - and their friendship - by staging their own daring stunt.
Year 1, Day 254
BEFORE: I’m taking a brief break from my leftover chain to go back to theaters for an advanced screening of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. If you recall from the two previous magic-related films in the marathon (The Illusionist and The Prestige), these films are very interesting to me because I’ve been known to perform some tricks myself. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone seems different from the others and focused more on the comedy than the magic, but it should still be interesting to watch.
AFTER: Paraphrasing what Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) says in the film, “Magic is all about the awe and wonderment; making the audience believe it’s actual magic rather than just a magic show.” The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has some funny parts and decent magic tricks. But for the most part, the film goes all over the place and feels like a magic show rather than true magic.
As I predicted in my “before” section, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was indeed more about the comedy than it was about magic or lots of character development. It wasn’t necessarily bad. Laughter was a constant presence throughout the theater, from myself included. Most of this comes from the star power (of Steve Carell and Alan Arkin especially) and their ability to make most situations funny. Sure, some of the writing and action was funny in and of itself, but a lot of it rests on the acting. As for the magic, I was actually fairly impressed with the tone they pulled off. The tricks themselves weren’t unique or brand new; lots are classics like the disappearing handkerchief, Chinese linking rings, and magic top hat. But they made it clear it wasn’t about the tricks themselves, it is about the effect magic can have on people. Maybe this is only because I have such a strong connection with magic, but I found myself thinking back to the magic kit I had as a kid, the first trick I performed, and the joy I get performing tricks today.
However, a lot of this film just goes way off the bizarre scale and hops around the place. Big things - Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) being the best example - just make no sense and had me questioning what was going on. It’s not the bizarre magic that upsets me (one of my favorite magicians performs bizarre magic). It’s that his stunts were so obviously fake and nothing even David Blaine would even attempt, or could for that matter. Also, for the film’s main antagonist, Steve Gray doesn’t really show up that often or has much of a presence - a lot rests on it being the Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) show. While he has a decent character arc going from the misogynistic, set-in-his-ways guy to a decent man who got back to his magic roots. But back on things that seem straight out of left field, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) had a completely ridiculous second act (he goes to some third-world country to give away magic kits). It’s stupid and it takes away from the flow and pacing of the film. A falling out between Anton and Burt is ok, and in many ways anticipated, but to send Anton halfway around the world for some bad jokes, it makes no sense.
Overall, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has a few good laughs and, while not placing the main focus on magic, still provided something relatable for me and brought back memories of my introduction to magic. But there are just too many bizarre and crazy things that left me puzzled and disinterested in what was going on. I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip to the theaters this weekend to see it, but if you are a fan of magic, it might be worth it to check it out once on your film-watching service of choice.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opens in theaters this Friday, March 15.
RATING: 3 out of 5