‘The (not so) Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ (2013).

21 Mar

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone-PosterThe Incredible Burt Wonderstone… A movie with such a self-gratifying title could only be setting itself up for disaster really. One could, logically and understandably, stroll into the cinema with the assumption that this film is not only A) incredible, but also B), wonderful. However, if one sets the bar this high then disappointment could only follow: this film is about as far removed from incredibility as it is from wonderfulness. Far more honest and informative titles could include “The Inherently Unlikeable Burt Douchbagstone”, “The Surprisingly Unfunny Burt Mulletstone” or “The Tasteless Burt Averagestone”, though they would admittedly sell less tickets than the bestowed name.

Steve Carell plays Burt Wonderstone, whom in the opening scenes was clearly a gentle kid who found solace in dazzling his (non-existent) friends with magic tricks. He and the equally introverted Anton Marvleton (Steve Buscemi) team up, and eventually become bigshot entertainers with a top spot at a big Las Vegas casino-hotel. However, the apparent ‘magic’ of performing magic tricks has been lost, and combined with the presence of a competing street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) sever both their professional and personal relationship. Can they reconvene and let the show go on?

My two favourite Steves (and my favourite Jim) of Hollywood conspire to confuse me: the two Steves play characters with unique names, yet Carrey plays a ‘Steve’! The puzzlement does not end there, for this film manages to defy the impossible and render Steve Carell, one of the best living comic actors around, irreparably unlikeable. For the first two thirds of the movie he is an asshole of the highest order; a vehemently sexist egomaniac, he works so hard to build a barrier of hatred around himself that we as an audience simply cannot empathise with his woes. We are meant to feel sorry for him, but he is such anathema to basic human decency that doing so is insurmountable.

This film is odd in that it presents an interesting (and probably unintentional role reversal. Jim Carrey’s character, an antagonistic David Blaine/Chris Angel hybrid, is the villain of the story yet manages to be far more entertaining than either of the leads. While one may not go as far as to root for him, had the film not featured Burt’s laughable name in its title the viewer could be forgiven for being a bit perplexed regarding who the good guy is. Buscemi is a reliable veteran, as is Alan Arkin (playing the magician who influenced Burt) yet neither are given nearly enough screen time. A waste of both.

Carey almost saves this. Almost.

Carrey almost saves this. Almost.

All of this aside, my main beef with the film is this: it’s not funny. The cardinal sin of any comedy picture, I am willing to forgive any lack of aesthetic or intellectual ingenuity so long as it makes me laugh. Aside from a few sparse chuckles here and there, I never guffawed once and when I did snigger, it was never at Carell or Buscemi. If any pros are to be found in this movie, they lie in the score: everything from jazz to Judas Priest gets an airing, and for that I say kudos to director Don Scardino, who incidentally has the most Mafia kingpin-style name I’ve ever heard.

An unfunny, blazingly sexist romp with a misleading title, I can’t decide whether The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a parody of glitzy Vegas-style magic, or defending it from the Blaines and Angels of the world, and frankly I doubt it’s subtle enough to be either. Hopefully all the actors concerned will use their not-so-well-earned paychecks to fund a satisfying project with results. Carell, go back to The Office where you belong!

Simon says: it’s a bad title.


One Response to “‘The (not so) Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ (2013).”


  1. Tina Fey + Steve Carell = hilarity; ‘Date Night’ (2010). | Simon Says - April 7, 2013

    […] stand Mean Girls, Baby Mama was a disappointment, Evan Almighty is annoyingly bland and I’ve explained how much of a tragedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is. However, this is the best of the lot; […]

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