The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/03/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Enjoyable comedy with a decent script and strong comic performances from a superb cast, though the central rivalry is underdeveloped and it settles for being consistently gently amusing rather than delivering big laughs.

What's it all about?
Directed by Don Scardino, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone begins with young, bullied Burt (Mason Cook) receiving a magic kit for his birthday and befriending Anton (Luke Vanek) by wowing him with tricks. Years later and the pair are still together, with a successful Las Vegas stage magic act (‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton’) that has run for ten years.

However, with their friendship already fraying at the edges, the pair find the popularity of their act threatened by the rise of pompous, David Blaine-like street-magician-slash-exhibitionist Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) and are given an ultimatum by hotel owner Doug (James Gandolfini) to freshen up their act. After an attention-grabbing stunt goes horribly wrong, Burt has to try and find a way to win back both his job and his friendship, aided by wannabe magician Jane (Olivia Wilde) and retired TV magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), whose name was on Burt's original magic set.

The Good
Steve Carell is excellent, sparking likeable chemistry with Buscemi, Wilde and Arkin and also pulling off a tricky character shift midway through the film that could have been disastrous in other hands. Similarly, Buscemi and Arkin are both terrific as Anton and Rance and there's strong support from Olivia Wilde, while Carrey is clearly enjoying himself as Gray (‘Pretend I'm still here and let's finish this conversation...’). In addition, Cook and Vanek are so good as the young versions of Burt and Anton that it's a shame we don't get a bit more of their adventures before the main story kicks off.

The film settles for consistently amusing rather than aiming for out-and-out belly laughs, though there are one or two properly hilarious moments, particularly towards the end of the film. In addition, the script pays close attention to the central relationships, so the more sentimental aspects feel genuine rather than forced (the film also cleverly plays its potentially biggest tear-jerking scene for unexpected laughs, which works well).

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is that the central rivalry is rather underdeveloped (Carrey's character is largely a succession of David Blaine digs), so it never feels like there's really much at stake. It's also a shame that, having established Wilde's character as a wannabe magician, that that idea isn't explored further, so we don't get to see her doing anything other than a couple of tiny tricks (though the look on her face when she does suggests that might have been an act worth watching).

Worth seeing?
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is an enjoyable comedy enlivened by strong comic performances and a witty script, though it's a shame it isn't just a little bit edgier. Worth seeing though.

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Content updated: 14/12/2017 15:13

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