How do you take the tired comedy movie cliché of redemption and breathe new life into it? Giving it a ridiculous hairstyle and a velvet full body outfit might not be the first answer you come up with, but it does give Don Scardino’s The Incredible Burt Wunderstone the edge as the funniest movie of 2013 thus far!
Our story centers on Burt Wonderstone, played as an adult by Steve Carrel, as a young boy who is the constant ridicule of the other boys in his class. However, as a birthday present, he receives a Rance Holloway magic kit, and after meeting his new best friend Anton Marvelton, played as an adult by Steve Buscemi, they take the fast way to fame and fortune. However, after 10 years in the business, their act is becoming cheesy and stale; particularly after shock illusionist Steve Gray, played by Jim Carey, begins stealing their crowd away. After failing their first attempt at revitalizing the act and parting ways, Burt and Anton go through their own path of redemption so that they can get back on top and not fade away in obscurity.
Bolstered by the cast of Olivia Wilde and James Gandolfini, the movie’s actors accentuate and compliment each other perfectly. No one particularly outshines each other; rather, the interactions build off each other, growing to a climax that is albeit somewhat predictable still very satisfactory.
Seeing as this is a movie about magic acts, the movie needs to show the practical side as well as the fantastic side of magic, and it does a fantastic job of walking the line. Of course, the audience gets exposure to some of the basics of magic; sleight of hand, card tricks, and even a disappearing trick or two. We also get to see some tricks that would be legitimately amazing if we were to see them on a stage.
There are a few different levels of comedy that come together to make for virtually perfect pacing and timing. Steve Carrel is famous for his verbal comedic timing, and here it comes through in spades. The physical comedy of Jim Carey is actually enhanced here by the fantastic; getting to see him do impossible acts of human endurance, such as sleeping on a bed of piping hot coals or making himself into a human piñata, and doing so in a way that only he can do. Putting all of them together with the wit of Wilde and the character actor of Buscemi is enough to make comic genius.
The unfortunate drawback of this movie is that it isn’t particularly memorable thing; this isn’t going to be the type of movie that has an endless amount of quotes or scenes lifted from it for the sake of parody. There aren’t going to be a sudden wave of people trying to get into magic nor are there going to be a large number of people trying to dress up like the lead characters for Halloween. It is an above average, funny comedy with great acting, catchy music and good settings; but there isn’t anything that completely stands out and makes it the next big thing.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is definitely an enjoyable comedy, but it just plays things a little too safe. There was a lot of potential for this movie to push the boundaries of traditional, formulaic story progression and really strike ground with legitimate originality; but instead there is an all too natural plot low and progression of character development that leaves a funny, predictable and ultimately forgettable film.
The acting is completely superb with excellent synergy that will even provide a few heartfelt moments. The pacing of the movie is completely sound and doesn’t jar you by quickly fluttering between dramatic and hilarious scenes. There are a few moments that make this movie not for children under a certain age, but otherwise this would be an enjoyable film for nearly all audiences. Two and a half stars out of four.