, Port Arthur, Texas

March 15, 2013

“Burt Wonderstone” not quite comedy magic

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— I had high hopes for “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” the new movie featuring funnymen Steve Carell and Jim Carrey. I was hoping that the pairing of these two comedians in a story about Las Vegas magicians would prove to be, well, magical. Instead, the movie proves to be a hit-and-miss yuck fest that does feature some genuinely funny moments, but not quite enough to make “Burt Wonderstone” into a comedy hit.

Carrel and Steve Buscemi star as Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, two boyhood friends who take their love of magic all the way to headlining a glitzy Las Vegas show. Their act turns out to be just an act, because the two men have grown apart and their show is dated and decidedly out of sync with the edgier magic taking place out on the strip.

Enter Steve Gray (Carrey), a Criss Angel/David Blaine type magician who really gets under Burt’s collar. Wonderstone and Marvelton make a half-baked attempt to outdo Gray with a dangerous stunt goes disastrously wrong. The public humiliation leads to their ruin and the end of their friendship.

The rest of the movie follows a very humbled Burt as he reconnects with what inspired him about magic in his youth. In other words, it turns into a pretty standard redemption comedy. There’s funny stuff along the way, and heaven knows that it’s fun to watch such a pompous character get knocked down. The problem is that the story arc is so traditional that it feels a bit stale. It’s only sporadically funny when there should have been several edgier sequences as we watch Burt try to claw his way back to the top.

Carrey does do well with some edgier bits, which does make the film substantially darker but also provides many of the film’s best laughs. Carrey’s having a ball making this movie, and his enthusiasm gives the film a nice lift.

Alan Arkin also comes out well, playing a retired magician who’s now living in a rest home. Arkin is hilarious. It’s wonderful to watch an old pro deliver one joke after another. He never seems to strain for a laugh. He’s just funny.

The truth be told, I dislike reviewing films like “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”  This is a comedy that’s genial and amusing, I certainly didn’t dislike spending and hour and a half with these silly characters. I also recognize that there are a lot of people who prefer a soft and funny film that will make them laugh but won’t scandalize them with all the raunchy bits. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it also means that the laughs are rather mild and not at all what we were hoping for with the pairing of Carrey and Carell.

I was hoping that “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” would make comedy magic. Oh well, it’s not the first time that I’ve been disappointed by a show on the Vegas strip.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at