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Why You Should Give the Underrated Incredible Burt Wonderstone a Look

It's entertaining and funny and has something to say about the sweetness at the heart of real entertainment and the nastiness at the heart of radicalism.

by
Andrew Klavan

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May 14, 2014 - 1:00 pm
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So the other day I was up late channel surfing, and I stumbled onto the The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which I’d never seen. You remember this film: Steve 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 also enjoyed the movie. It is like comfort food for the soul. Jim Carrey makes me wince; Steve Carell makes me smile and Steve Buscemi makes be believe that perfection is possible.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I liked this movie. Saw it on cable a few times. My one problem was in the third act when Burt, Anton, and Jane are performing their "new" show, they should have shown them performing some tricks before they moved to the grand finale of making the audience vanish.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I had the same type of experience as Mr. Klavan with this movie. Light, entertaining and funny.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
"... both critics and humans rate it in the 30s on Rotten Tomatoes..."
There is always at least one line in your post that makes me laugh out loud with its' originality. I will try to check out the movie.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
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