Man, what the hell happened with this movie? This one could’ve been a new comedy classic. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has a cast of capable comedic actors playing new and old school Vegas magicians, which sounds like a perfect recipe for splitting the sides of audience members wide open. The over-the-top goofiness of stage conjurers and the laughable edginess of “street” magic are ripe for satire, but even so, Burt Wonderstone is an uneven comedy that see-saws between perfectly tolerable and hysterical. Will Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray release win over our home video hearts? Find out after the jump.
Steve Carrell plays the “incredible” titular character, Burt Wonderstone. The film begins with a bittersweet flashback to Burt’s sad youth. After using his wits to escape some bullies, Burt runs home to an empty house. It’s his birthday and not only is his mother absent, she didn’t have the decency to pick him up a cake, just the cake mix. How depressing is that? Already I hope this kid grows up to be incredible. Or a baker.
Mrs. Wonderstone also left him a birthday present: a magic kit featuring the warm visage of Alan Arkin in a cape. The look on young Burt’s face says it all. This pathetic, lonely twerp has found his calling. Sure, magic will probably not do much to stifle the bullies at school, but with enough practice he can grow up to be filthy rich and world famous. Which he does, along with his sidekick, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). Together the two work their way up to the upper echelons of Vegas stardom. Which of course means lots of glitter and bleached blonde hair against deeply tanned faces (shudders).
Fast forward a few decades and Wonderstone’s magic is going outta style. The decline of his respect and fanbase coincides with the rise of street magician Steve Grey (Jim Carrey) – a man who pulls cards out of self-inflicted wounds and slumbers on burning coals. With his miserable facial air, pleather pants, and baffling moniker, “Brain Rapist,” Grey is an obvious stand-in for “Mind Freak” Criss Angel.
Have you ever watched Angel’s show Mindfreak? Holy crap is that the most unintentionally hilarious show of the last decade. I saw one episode where he attempted to lift up a car. At first he couldn’t do it, but then he ripped his shirt off so everyone could see how ripped he was and then he totally lifted the car. I definitely felt mind freaked.
Burt’s boss, played by the almighty James Gandolfini (in his last role), gives him the boot until he can rework his dated act for the blood-thirsty contemporary audience. This cocky world of backstage Vegas glitz and street magic torture makes for some big laughs. The jokes are sadly intermittent and you’ll find most of them in the first half, but when the gags do hit they land hard. Near the end, particularly when Burt discovers his childhood mentor, the film loses a lot of steam.
The film’s redeeming qualities have a lot to do with the great cast, headed up by Carrell playing an insufferable pretty boy. The bitter pleasantries and ridiculous magic battles between him and Carrey are fantastic. Carrey got the biggest laugh outta me. It’s a very brief moment in a bar and I must’ve rewound the bit 10 times. Buscemi, as always, is terrific. Olivia Wilde is hardly in the movie, she even does a disappearing act for quite some time, but when she is present she holds up well against Carrell and Carrey.
While Burt Wonderstone may not be a new comedy classic, it’s certainly worth a rent. It’s disappointing in some respects, with such a great cast and concept, but there are some big laughs peppered throughout and who knows, maybe the film will inspire some lonely kid to take up the dark arts. What more could a filmmaker hope for?
Warner Bros. presents The Incredible Burt Wonderstone in 1080p HD in 2.4:1 widescreen with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The video is pretty solid, especially during the flashy Vegas scenes. Colors pop during Burt and Anton’s gaudy stage show and definition is top-notch. The clarity and detail during the lower-lit scenes seems to diminish, however. The audio is fine, although the presentation is mostly in the front, with little use made of rear speakers.
Warner Bros. discs have been really lazy lately in their presentation. They always have the same menu layout with the same menu icons on the bottom. The features are typically fine, but the whole package is just remarkably bland.
One of the few features here include nearly a half hour of deleted scenes and alternate takes. That’s a lot of cutting room floor to sweep up. There are some nice moments where you can witness some clever improving, but nothing too juicy.
“Making Movie Magic with David Copperfield” is a brief supplement featuring the professional magician discussing his cameo in the film. He also explains how he designed the “Hangman” illusion for the Carrel and Buscemi to perform. This man hasn’t aged in 20 years, by the way.
Then there are 10 minutes of “Brain Rapist” footage, which I got a kick out of. Like I said, I think Criss Angel is a hoot, so I could probably watch parodies of that goofball forever.
Rounding off the disc is a short gag reel.