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Klavan On The Culture

The Underrated Burt Wonderstone

May 14th, 2014 - 8:18 am

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So the other day I was up late channel surfing, and I stumbled on the The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which I’d never seen. You remember this film: Steves Carell and Buscemi as two high school friends who become an old fashioned Siegfried and Roy-style team of Vegas magicians. They run into trouble when radical street magician Jim Carrey starts to steal their thunder. Olivia Wilde is the beautiful assistant who humanizes the arrogant Carell.

The film got mixed to harsh reviews and underperformed at the box office: both critics and humans rate it in the 30s on Rotten Tomatoes and it had one of the lowest openings of a film with Carell or Carrey.

And you know what? It’s good! Not a great movie by any stretch. But it’s charming, sweet-natured, entertaining and I laughed out loud — hard — three or four times. Which is approximately three or four times more than I laugh out loud at most film comedies. The scene with Buscemi bringing magic to the poor is wonderful.

Many of the reviews attacking the picture seemed grumpy about its mixed tone. As “The Brain Rapist,” Carrey’s over-the-top, self-mutilating magic is outrageous and occasionally hard to watch, whereas the story of Carell and Buscemi’s friendship and Carell and Wilde’s romance is more standard comedy fare. And yeah, that’s true, but the mix works really well. In fact, it actually has something to say about the difference between “radical art,” and actual entertainment…  which is, I suspect, what got the highbrow critics so upset in the first place. It’s really a rebuke to their slavish admiration of the off-beat.

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All Comments   (4)
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I will have to see this, looks a a funny skewering of some Entertainment/media sacred cows in a "zoolander" kinda way...
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you for the recommendation! Just picked it up @ the library, and expecting some solid entertainment. It helps that I love old-fashioned stage magic.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I caught this movie on cable also having neglected to see it at a theater. I agree that, while not a "must see" movie, it is pretty good. The criticism of acts like David Blaine and Criss Angel is the real point I think. And when Buscemi, in a misguided humanitarian effort to bring magic to the third world, gives a rabbit he pulled out of his hat to a hungry child and the child walks away with the animal... well, you can assume what happened. Any time Buscemi is on a screen I have to watch.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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