Burt Wonderstone IS incredible
MANILA, Philippines - Coming with limited fanfare similar to the celebrity that the characters in the film enjoy, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" is a relatively small film that tells us a story we’ve all been told before. But working within the cookie-cutter plot it chooses for itself, it provides quite a bit of fun.
We open on a young Burt being bullied by the neighborhood kids. He gets a magic set and makes a friend in Anton, who becomes his partner. We are whisked through the pair’s career as they rise to become top magicians, and then to the present where they are playing to a waning Vegas crowd that is growing bored of the old tricks, just as Burt himself has lost love for the magic that he performs.
Burt and Anton are played by Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi respectively. Carell we know as a comedic actor, and he has played this kind of role before. Buscemi plays a great wingman here, and the two have a fun chemistry that reveals the dynamics of their friendship. They have a number of great gags throughout the film, particularly an ugly crying scene at a diner.
Just as their act and their friendship are going stale, a new kind of magician arrives in the form of Jim Carrey’s Steve Gray. Gray is like David Blaine, a street magician that does intense, logic defying tricks. Carrey’s wackiness allows for an even more interesting aspect of Gray’s act, this focus on gore. It’s over the top but the perfect thing for Carrey, who is so much fun to watch here. I felt like I was having a flashback to his "In Living Color" days with the kind of easy humor and intensity that he brought to the role.
Gray’s brand of magic threatens the already tenuous position of Burt and Anton as top magician. Once the two have a falling out, the movie kicks into gear. It brings in the inspiration for Burt’s getting into magic, Rance Holloway, played by Alan Arkin. Also playing a role is Burt and Anton’s assistant, Jane, played by Olivia Wilde, who has her own tricks up her sleeve.
And so with all those pieces on the board, we have the makings of a film that we’ve largely seen before. The lovable loser has made good in life and become successful. But somewhere along the way, he lost the love and passion that made him pursue his field in the first place. He has forgotten it in the face of fame and riches. Then, with the entry of a new competitor, it all comes crashing down around him. Now he must go through a journey where he rediscovers himself, wins back his friends, and finds a new way to defeat the pompous pretender who has taken his place.
It’s a movie that comes out at least once a year. The thing that changes is the field/sport/profession. But it’s essentially the same movie, with the same kinds of conflicts and resolutions. My own favorite in the mold is "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."
So given that we know exactly what to expect from this film on a narrative level, its merit will lie in its ability to deliver something new in terms of the field, and in the performances. Luckily, "Burt Wonderstone" delivers on both levels.
Magic is always, well, magical. Even when we know how it works, it’s a joy to see magic tricks, and you can’t help but appreciate the showmanship and craft behind the whole thing. Here we get to see the development of magic tricks, from the most basic sleight of hand to the extreme bent that it has taken today.
The movie takes jabs at the cheesy Vegas lounge acts just as much as it does the extreme stuff. But it gets to the heart of the matter too, showing why magic shows are important and bringing us back to the sense of wonder and awe that draws us to it in the first place.
Watch the trailer here:
We know where this movie is going to take us, just in the same way that we know that the magician has trap doors and special pockets. But in both cases there is joy in watching the show, in giving oneself up and recapturing the sense of childish wonderment that each tries to conjure. - Rappler.com
Carljoe Javier doesn't know why people think he's a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he's not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games... Then again, those people could be right.