The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

2013, PG-13, 100 min. 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.

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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

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
Vice
Unsubtle Dick Cheney bio-pic is the political bludgeon we deserve

Kimberley Jones, Dec. 21, 2018

Welcome to Marwen
Outsider artist's harrowing true story gets a misguided Hollywood sheen

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 21, 2018

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
Biography of Leonard Cohen's muse can't stop focusing on the artist

July 19, 2019

The Spy Behind Home Plate
Fascinating documentary about spy/baseball player Moe Berg never cracks his code

July 19, 2019

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, Brad Garrett, Zachary Gordon, Luke Vanek

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle