Wonderfully Narcissistic – A review of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Steve Carrell (front) and Steve Buscemi star in the magical comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Steve Carrell (front) and Steve Buscemi star in the magical comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
3 stars for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Summary: Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi play off nicely against one another, but the stunts initiated by their rival played by Jim Carrey are just over the top and disgusting.

The art of prestidigitation is wondrously detailed. A mistake by a magician can easily cost his own life or that of an assistant. Case in point: everyone remembers the stunts that thrilled audiences and eventually killed Harry Houdini.

Here, though, two young friends bond over a magic kit and vow to remain friends and magical partners forever. Of course, forever is a very long time and strained acts and relationships can cause a falling out even for lifelong friends.

What doesn’t help is the overwhelming narcissism evoked by Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) that makes him a less-than-likable character at the onset of the story. Eventually he starts to regret his partnership with Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) but he fails to realize that without the partnership, there is no act.

Of course for him, there will always be more than stage work. He invites attractive members of the audience on stage for the act and proceeds to have them sign multiple forms consenting to a tryst afterwards. Wonderstone has absolutely no morals and even less shame.

The real distraction of the picture, though, is the equally narcissistic act of Steve Gray (a less than hilarious performance by uber-slapstick comedian Jim Carrey) who proceeds to torture himself and his audience with increasingly vomit-inducing schtick that fails to make him entertaining, but rather a cringe worthy masochist with suicidal tendencies. Unfortunately, there really are magicians out there who try this at home.

Alan Arkin is a gem in the story, though. As the almost Yoda-like master magician, Rance Holloway, he helps guide the floundering careers of Wonderstone and Marvelton and helps set them back on a path towards healing.

Olivia Wilde nicely balances the male cast as necessary eye candy but more than holds her own against her counter-stars. A magician in her own right, she just wants the opportunity to prove herself. And she gets the opportunity in spades.

And James Gandolfini gets to throw his own weight around a bit as the casino owner who is always looking out for the next best act. Of course, he wouldn’t know true talent if it jumped out of a box and tapped him on the shoulder, but then again, what venue owner really does these days?

Underneath all the bluster and self-aggrandizement, the story holds true pathos. You just have to watch for glimmers of it throughout this tale. I give The Incredible Burt Wonderstone 3 out of 5 stars.

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