Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone review

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" is an ok film. For the most part. Ok, not for the most part, but it has quite a few good laughs in it. My colleagues at The Playlist hated it and it's understandable. It's overly predictable, it lags in the second act, and the third act really isn't a showstopper, nor does it try to be. The writing is lazy, the performances are a mixed bag, but I thought the film had a charming enough energy to it that made it enjoyable. It won't go down as a comedy classic, by any means, but for a broad, mainstream comedy, it could be worse. Though saying "it could be worse" won't exactly make you want to see it. The film ultimately amounts to a smile and a shrug. Yes, it's a pretty bad film, but not unforgivably bad.

See, I honestly dug the idea of this film. Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carrey in a comedy together sounds like it could be a lot of fun. Add Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, and the lovely Olivia Wilde and, really, what could go wrong? It's a comedy that spoofs magicians. Sure the premise is kinda outdated and really offbeat, but should we penalize a film for spoofing performers who haven't been famous in about ten years? Probably. But, I won't. I really dug the premise and have always wanted a comedy like this, especially with such great comedic performers.

The film starts out pretty strongly, as a matter of fact. We get a brief look into how Burt Wonderstone (Carell) meets his partner Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) and watch them as they "mature" into adult magicians performing in Vegas. But we meet the performers when they're already has-beens, facing competition from the Criss Angel/David Blaine-esque street performer, Steve Gray. Inevitably, the pressure to revamp their act leads to a split between the two Vegas performers and Burt Wonderstone looks to get his career back on track thanks to the help of his former helper, Jane (Wilde) and the inspiration of a legendary magician (played by Arkin).

Right up until the split between the performers, the film runs pretty smoothly with quite a few laughs to be had. The on-stage chemistry between Buscemi and Carell is very evident from the start; they work great together, but I thought breaking them up so early was unfortunate. Once the story becomes about Burt Wonderstone, that's where you feel the pace of the film start to drag. He's got the love interest, he gets inspired, he rights his wrongs, we've all seen this before. Luckily, Steve Carell does enough with his role to keep you in the film, but I honestly like him more when he's down-to-earth. He can play silly, but this role just wasn't well-written enough to make you care.

On the other hand, Jim Carrey was great. It was so nice to see him actually care. I wish he would do more ensemble films because he really shines in the limited screen time and showcases the immense talent that he has, without squandering it over and over in bad, formulaic comedies. Steve Buscemi was solid too and Jay Mohr's small role in the film left a memorable, lasting impression, but I was excited to see Jim Carrey really jazz himself up for a performance. You either like him or think he's annoying, whatever, at least he put energy into his role this time around.

And that's really what the film lacks for the most part: energy. The writers of "Burt Wonderstone" also wrote "Horrible Bosses." Horrible Bosses is also incredibly formulaic but had a great setup and energy to it. The premise was a slam dunk, it would've been hard to screw that up. This one, though, needed a bit much punch in order for it to really be funny. Unfortunately, it's too tame and the laughs don't hit very hard, and when you don't have many laughs, the films comes off even more formulaic than usual.

Is Burt Wonderstone a bad film? Kinda, but if you are looking to laugh, and there aren't many good comedies out at the moment, you can't really go wrong with this one. It could've been better, it could've been worse. Overall, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," is merely "ok." Passable entertainment.

Grade: C

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