• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Directed by Don Scardino. Starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr, Michael Herbig, Brad Garrett, Zachary Gordon, Luke Vanek. (2013, PG-13, 100 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 15, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Las Vegas stage act of showbiz magicians, Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi), has grown hackneyed over the years; the movie that recounts the highs and lows of their shared careers shows more zip and pizzazz – but not much. With a plot that seems overly familiar and jokes that are more amusing than hilarious, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone draws a lot of goodwill from the basic likability of its star performers.

The film tells the story of two childhood outcasts who find their calling and a lifetime friendship in an instructional box of magic tricks one receives as a birthday present. After a prologue establishes their early magical kismet, the film picks up on the Sunset Strip where the duo performs as a longtime Vegas act in a casino theatre that bears their names. But with their unvarying patter and stage moves, their act has grown as stale as Burt’s perpetual tan. Competition has come calling in the guise of Steve Gray (Carrey), a snarky, long-haired street magician who practices sensationalistic tricks, à la Criss Angel, in a style that might be dubbed exxxtreme magic. Casino owner Doug Munny (Gandolfini) forces them to update their act, but Burt and Anton squabble instead.

Carell derives a lot of humor from the character’s insufferable egocentrism, and, while it’s always entertaining, it’s nothing new for this actor. Buscemi proves to be a delight as a comic leading man, while Olivia Wilde has too little to do as a fellow magician and potential love interest. Burt’s fall from grace is an inevitable show-business story, though he spends too little time scraping the bottom for the audience to believe that he has truly received his comeuppance. As he frequently does these days, Alan Arkin steals every one of his scenes. This comedy (which was the opening-night film at this year's SXSW Film Festival) is, ultimately, a lighthearted distraction, but “incredible” it is not.

READ MORE
More The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Famous People Looking Pretty
Famous People Looking Pretty
Scenes from 'Burt Wonderstone' and 'Scenic Route' red carpets

March 9, 2013

'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' – This Is Not a Review
'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' – This Is Not a Review
Celebrities and other people you don't know: Live and in-person.

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 9, 2013

More Steve Carell Films
The Big Short
The financial meltdown of 2008 is treated with terrific comic spin

Kimberley Jones, Dec. 25, 2015

Freeheld
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are adrift in this gay-rights drama

Marjorie Baumgarten, Oct. 16, 2015

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Mother's Day
The movie is a moneymaking contrivance, just like the holiday itself

April 29, 2016

Sing Street
The director of Once and Begin Again helms another joyful music film

April 29, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Don Scardino, Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr, Michael Herbig

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)