Friday, March 15, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

**This review contains spoilers**

Harassed and bullied as a child, Burt uses Rance Holloway’s (Alan Arkin) magic kit to escape reality. Burt idolizes Rance for being the most famous magician of his time, and Burt forms a team with his best friend, Anton.

As adults, Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are the hottest magic act in Las Vegas. Performing on a weekly basis at the luxurious Bally’s Hotel, Burt and Anton continue to fill seats in their exclusive theater until a new act threatens their business. Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) stars in and hosts a reality magic TV show named Brain Rapist. Steve performs exciting and extreme acts of magic, but on the flip-side, Burt and Anton’s routine act is becoming stale.

Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) is the owner of the Bally’s Hotel, and Doug is looking for a modern act to take over Burt and Anton’s spot for his new hotel. Doug wants Steve Gray, and Burt’s stubbornness could ruin the team’s chances of landing a new contract. The new assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde) tries to join Burt and Anton’s team, as Steve Gray continues to impress Doug, slowly securing his spot for the one and only contract worth millions.

I tried and I TRIED, but I could not laugh at Jim Carrey’s Steve Gray. It was a case of trying too hard, and overkill for me. It’s not enough for Steve Gray to have a show named Brain Rapist, drill holes in his head, and sleep on hot coals. On top of that, he paints his fingernails, has a series of wild tattoos, and performs a stunt, where he forces himself to hold all of his urine for days. I’m a Jim Carrey fan, but Steve Gray couldn’t pull any laughs out of me.

It’s refreshing to see Steve Carell take a different route character wise. As a kid, yeah, Carell’s character is the wimpy geek, but as an adult, he’s an egotistical asshole. Carell was enjoyable as the asshole, but the inevitable “jerk realizes all of his mistakes, and decides to turn his life around” character transformation is so disappointing (more on that later). Carell was an entertaining egomaniac, but the predictable story kills this character.

James Gandolfini was spot on as Doug Munny. Then again, Gandolfini has a lot of experience, when it comes to playing a pushy and obsessive boss. Steve Buscemi has a few moments as the nerdy sidekick, Olivia Wilde never rises above the status of eye candy, and Alan Arkin was the perfect fit for the old and grouchy veteran. 

I laughed every now and then, but The Incredible Burt Wonderstone could’ve been, and more importantly, SHOULD’VE been better. The cast is top notch, and more often than not, Steve Carell is reliable as a “comedy guy” in the lead role. BUT I don’t blame the cast. The story is formulaic and predictable, and you’ll see everything coming from a mile away. The step-by-step process for Burt’s eventual realizations for all of his mistakes, and a need to do the right thing is torturous.

Burt and Anton reaching down into the bottom of their bag to pull out that one grand trick towards the very end was supposed to be the feel-good moment, but the “disappearing act” didn’t do anything for me. Jane and Burt as a couple brought a facepalm out of me, because The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’s obvious foreshadowing gave away the “the tool turns into a nice guy, and captures the heart of his dream girl” storyline.

Sorry, but I’m going to have high expectations for a comedy that features Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin, and James Gandolfini. The breaking the fourth wall technique for showing the secrets behind the magic tricks added a cool behind the scenes layer to this film, but still, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is an underwhelming comedy. Dry jokes, inconsistent, goofy humor, monotonous predictability, and truth be told, this movie is kind of boring at times. I had high hopes for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but instead, I have an early pick for my list of major disappointments in 2013. 

Final Rating: 3/10

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