Title: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Director(s): Don Scardino
Release Year: 2013
Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley made a huge splash when they made their feature-length debuts as writers on Horrible Bosses. While it wasn’t an incredible film, it was an original premise most people who have worked a day in their life could get behind, plus it made excellent use of its all-star cast. With The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, originality is thrown out of the window for cheap laughs, while banking on its big name cast to save the film from its jokes that almost never land and lack of any creative spark. It is a movie that wants to impress you with its style, rather than perform the more difficult task of showing the audience a trick they’ve never seen before.
In that is the major flaw with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Steve Carell plays Burt Wonderstone, a colossal egotist who has let the fame from being a magician get to his head. Him and his partner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), have been playing the Vegas strip for years, and have been friends for even longer. Yet when their act starts losing steam, Burt needs to revitalize his passion for magic and remember why he got into the business to begin with, in order to repair his “magical friendship” with Anton. Meanwhile, there’s a new form of magician out there, doing what are essentially Jackass-like stunts with a faint hint of magic, which is embodied in the form of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). His street act is made to be reminiscent of recent acts like David Blaine and Criss Angel, who take a more morbid approach to magic, substituting wonder and awe for basic sleight of hand tricks disguised by gruesomeness, and even just enduring severe amounts of pain. The flaw with this plot is that underneath the outdated magician premise, the film is overly simplistic and merely amounts to a man being on top of his game, being forced to remember why he liked magic in the first place, so that he can get the girl, amend his friendship, and keep being rich.
As generic as that sounds, there’s almost no redeeming features to Burt at all, either, despite him being our protagonist who we want to succeed and overcome the tyranny of this new wave of magic. The movie also really deflates the idea of a magician, acknowledging that they are all phonies and hacks, it is just about making it look believable. While that may be true, it is really hard to find a character likable when the job he covets so much involves tricking people into giving him money. The fact that the big climax of the film hinges on a magic trick which is illegal, just demonstrates how much The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is preoccupied with getting laughs as opposed to being original, or even good. The script seems to be tackling an issue of dwelling in the past and dealing with the inevitable changes that life brings, but by the end of the film, you understand that was never the intention.
Another fault in the film goes beyond the movie’s inability to deliver the humor it promises, instead wasting an entirely promising cast. Jim Carrey is the only standout as he frolics in his role as Steve Gray, a role that fits Carrey like a glove. Meanwhile, every other member of the cast disappoints, probably due to the atrocious script. Whatever was going on during the screenwriting for Horrible Bosses, was not present during this film. Jay Mohr has a small role that I found to be funny at one point, Alan Arkin delivers his lines with the exuberance expected from him, but like I said, Carrey is the all-star in this cast, being able to unhinge himself and go crazy with his character. Other than that, this is a movie that I don’t think could have even been saved by a rewrite; an entirely new script would have been the answer.
With an outdated premise, a waste of a cast, an unfunny script, and an extremely unlikable protagonist, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is perhaps one of the worst films of the year. Not because it’s a terrible film, but because it’s so terribly boring. There is nothing going for it besides an unhinged Jim Carrey performing his usual comedy antics, and a somewhat entertaining final trick, though it only works on a most superficial level. I don’t want to put the blame here all on the screenwriters, as Don Scardino is the director of the movie, but it’s clear that the main issue here is the script. I would say that hopefully Goldstein and Daley work on their writing, but it seems like studios are okay with what they churn out, since they have a ton of projects lined up already.