We’re well into the doldrums period of film releases now and I wasn’t particularly excited about either of this week’s offerings: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone or The Call. Burt Wonderstone emerged as the front runner because a) The Call made me watch its trailer 5,000 times on the CTV website and b) Jim Carrey’s back playing a nutcase (which means it is officially the 90s again).
A jaded Las Vegas magician tries to restart his career after he loses his audience to a rival with bloodier tricks.
I’ve seen this Siegfried and Roy vs Criss Angel setup before in really well done episodes of CSI: NY and Supernatural, so what it all boiled down to for me was: is it funny? And yes, I’m happy to report that it is hilarious, which easily makes up for a few plot and character related issues.
After a brief prologue in which young Burt (Mason Cook) gets menaced by the Wimpy Kid (Zachary Gordon) and bonds with young Anton (Luke Vanek) over a magic kit, we fast forward to Burt at the height of his career. He and his buddy Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are the headline act at Bally’s casino in Las Vegas and despite the fact that they dress in sparkles, hold hands, and bill their show as a “magical friendship,” NO ONE goes for the obvious gay jokes.
So, guys, it is a “magical” friendship or a “special” friendship??
Anton’s still keen on the magic but Burt is bored. His bed is a theme park ride for female fans (complete with a CGI souvenir photo when it’s over) and he can’t even be bothered to call their female assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) by her real name. So when Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), a new magician who’s willing to cut open his face for attention, comes to town, Anton and Burt have a big fight and break up.
Watch me magically dissolve your three decade friendship.
Anton, despite being “the ugly one” was the one with all the ideas, so when he leaves to do charity work in Cambodia (presumably to get his ugly mug out of the movie) Burt’s cut loose, working at supermarkets, birthday parties, and old folk’s homes to survive. Coincidentally, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), the magician Burt idolized as a kid, lives in the retirement home where Burt works, and he helps Burt regain his love of magic.
I still can’t believe a whole dove was in that salt shaker.
Almost every minute of this movie is funny. Steve Gray’s show is called “brain rapist” and involves him doing the crazy things we all love to see him do – dance around, hammer nails with his head, etc. Burt complains that “all he does is mumble cut himself… my niece does that!” and that what Steve does “is not magic, it’s monkey porn.” They reluctantly let some of the other characters have a joke now and then, but the movie is mostly carried by Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey.
Feel free to chime in anytime there, other Steve.
Given how funny it is, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone could have become a favorite of mine, like Tropic Thunder and Easy A. But it has a few issues. First, there’s the obligatory love subplot between Jane, who wants to be a magician rather than an assistant, and Burt, and it seems tacked on. She has enough self respect to reject him when he’s being an ass but as soon as he stops being a sexist douche and makes up with Anton, Jane jumps his bones. Like she has to, because she’s only in the movie to be the girlfriend, not to be a magician like the promo material leads us to believe. She only does one or two tricks the entire movie.
Ta da! I stole five seconds of screen time away from your bloated ego!
Secondly, there’s Anton. Poor ugly Anton. They make jokes in the movie about how ugly he is and praises Burt for not ditching. But then the MOVIE ditches Anton for almost two thirds of its running time. Even when Anton comes back from Cambodia he takes a back seat to the forced love story between Jane and Burt, even though the movie keeps trying to tell us that Burt has learned the value of friendship (if he has, it’s that friendship is the key to getting girls to jump your bones).
Yup, hi! Look at me! Still here!
And thirdly – their final trick. Burt, Anton, and Jane have to come up with something amazing to beat out not-Criss-Angel in the contest to win a contract at a new casino. I imagined that they’d pull something surprising that tricked us in the audience as well as the fake audience in the movie (like The Prestige but less depressing) but while it was a hilarious trick it wasn’t a tricky trick. I could have used more mind blowing magic tricks in this movie, but they were more about comedy than illusions.
And those stupid public endurance trials that aren’t really magic.
Obviously these problems weren’t enough to stop me from enjoying the movie. My friend and I were laughing our butts off the entire time, and isn’t that the only thing you really want from a comedy? So what if I wouldn’t buy a copy on DVD. I got my money’s worth out of it in the theater. So if you want to laugh (and if you’ve always wanted a return to 90s Jim Carrey) go see this movie.