Mr. Movie: 'Wonderstone' lacks magic

By Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comMarch 15, 2013 

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone calls itself a comedy. A talented cast of comedians and other actors gives you that impression. But like a real magic act, the comedy is deceptive. In most parts of the film, it is not there at all or if it does pop up, it quickly disappears.

Steve Carell is Burt Wonderstone. A miscast Steve Buscemi plays Anton Marvelton, his partner and best pal from boyhood. They are world famous magicians headlining at a mythical Las Vegas hotel and casino. After years of fame, they have become predictable and crowds are tired of their stale act.

Wonderstone and Marvelton are also tired of their now-stale friendship. Magic is supposed to be unpredictable. This movie about magic is completely predictable. Exceptional cast or not, after 20 minutes you, too, are tired of the stale act, the stale friendship and this movie's stale plot.

Wonderstone's ego is out of control, and Marvelton is no longer marvelous. Adding to their problems is a new kind of magic that has captured the nation's imagination. Entering from stage left -- or better yet, left field -- is Jim Carrey who plays Steve Gray. He's a street magician whose brand of "magic" is all about self-abuse and self-mutilation. Gray does bizarre stuff like really slicing up his face to do a card trick, sleeping on red hot coals and refusing to urinate for days.

While people in the movie can't wait to see what dangerous stunt he'll do next, your hope is that Carrey's overdone character does a real disappearing act. Forced to meet Gray's energy level and creativity, the two magicians do a stunt in a see-through plastic box hung by a crane in the air.

It literally and predictably pushes the partnership over the edge.

A movie with a predilection for the predictable includes the most unsurprising ingredient of all: romance. Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) is Jane, the duo's drop-dead gorgeous assistant and love interest.

Magicians doing prestidigitation -- or sleight of hand for the uninitiated -- will sometimes do what is called a force. They'll maneuver the trick in a way that requires the person they're doing the trick for to do something. Those familiar with magic know exactly what the magician is doing but the audience doesn't.

The same can be said for movies. Sometimes writers and directors do a film version of a force. That's The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Nothing in the movie is magical from the performances to the forced comedy, to the romance, to the happy ending.

Like magicians who perfect their craft by doing the same trick the same way for years, good actors like Carell, Buscemi, Carrey, Wilde and their old pro supporting team of James Gandolfini and Alan Arkin are so good at what they do that they can pretty much sleepwalk through a script.

And this script is a bad one. The only laughs found in this dud are in the ending sequences. The 90-plus minutes you have to wade through to get there isn't worth the trip.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone just isn't.

Does Mr. Movie's magic do the trick for you? Let him know below.

Director: Don Scardino

Stars: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin

Mr. Movie rating: 1 star

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service