Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) ***

PG-13, 100 min.
Director: Don Scardino
Writers: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chad Kultgen, Tyler Mitchell
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr, Michael Bully Herbig, Brad Garrett, David Copperfield

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” isn’t incredible, but it made me laugh, so I’m going to recommend it. The movie was a major bomb at the box office and didn’t fare well with the critics either, prompting unending debate about whether Jim Carrey should just throw in the towel. This isn’t Jim Carrey’s movie, however. I’ve billed him fourth, and going by role size, that’s where he belongs.

Carrey provides exactly what he’s required to for this movie. He’s the villain. He’s there to point out the ridiculous nature of today’s famous magicians, like Chris Angel, whose “magic” resembles something dreamed up on the coffee breaks for “Jackass”. Whereas the real story of the movie lies within the titular character, Burt Wonderstone and the old school, blue-haired, Vegas/Branson style magic show with the bad hairstyles and the velvet outfits, magician’s assistants, and a story to go along with everything. Carrey’s character is there to make you like Wonderstone, but the real satire and tribute is for the Woderstone style of magic.

Because I have kids and they have a grandmother who likes to buy them special things that some other children might not necessarily be exposed to, I’ve seen the types of traditional magic shows they’re making fun of and paying tribute to here up close and personal. The seams do often show, at least in Branson; but there are also always some aspects to the show that are incredible. This movie has all that right. And it is in the arena of the staged magical act that the movie is most effective.

Yes, Carrey is a little too far over the top at times, but I don’t think that’s his fault. His character gets more ridiculous as the rest of the movie gets less so, creating a see saw effect that is not in Carrey’s favor. This uneven aspect is a problem dramatically, because it’s hard to discern just how we’re supposed to take all this, as farce or heartfelt comedy. Despite this imbalance, I laughed too much to say I didn’t like the movie. It needed much more of Jay Mohr’s character though. I don’t think I’ve ever found Mohr so funny as he is here as a magician who doesn’t know how to tell a joke, yet tries to constantly.

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