SXSW 2013: “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” – Review by MovieManMenzel

burt wonderstone sxsw

An enjoyable and funny film without the overused sex jokes and gross out humor.

SXSW is one of those unique film festivals that showcase a ton of independent films that you won’t see anywhere else as well as huge mainstream premieres. This year, the festival opened up with the Warner Brothers comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and it opened to a pretty packed house at the famous Paramount Theater. At the premiere, the film’s three main stars Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, and Olivia Wilde were all in attendance and definitely were some great faces to see as they kicked off SXSW 2013.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone tells the story of Burt (Steve Carell) who as a child was inspired to do magic by a popular magician named Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin). Burt wasn’t a popular kid in school and was often bullied by the jocks, but as soon as he learned magic his luck began to change. He soon became friends with Anton (Steve Buscemi) and the two devoted their lives to magic. Over the next 20 or so years, Burt and Anton become huge famous magicians and even have a popular show on the Las Vegas strip. All seemed to be perfect until the boys are notified of this new magician in town who goes by the name Steve Grey (Jim Carrey). Hoping to intrigue the younger generation, Grey performs outlandish stunts (think about Kris Angel: Mindfreak) as a way to set the stage for something new in the world of magic. Because of Grey and his new shock value style of magic, Burt and Anton soon learn that they are in danger of losing their show unless they come up with a new act and fast. Together, the two friends attempt to create a new trick that will make hopefully leave a mark in the magic history books.

If you have seen any of the marketing for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone it might be hard to swallow that this is actually a good film, but honestly it really is and it’s a ton of fun to watch. The film takes the cheesy idea of magic and runs with it. What I think makes this film work as well as it does is simply the overall story line of the film. While there have been a lot of dramas focused on magicians, it is extremely rare to see a comedy about the subject. While the idea of someone wanting to be a magician may seem cheesy, I think it’s a good basis for a plot of a film especially a comedy.

Burt and Anton’s act can be viewed very much like a Siegfried and Roy type show complete with some odd moments where you wonder “what’s the deal with these guys?” Their show features several moments that tell their friendship over the year as well as their hardships from when they were in high school. It is extremely entertaining to see how the writer of the film found a way to incorporated their friendship into part of their magic act that they played every night to a sold out crowd.

The reason I feel that Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi work so well as a duo is because they are so different from one another. Burt let’s the fame go to his head and he cares more about sleeping with women rather than actually doing his show. Anton, on the other hand, is still all about the magic and would rather use his fame to do good for those who are less fortunate. It’s because of their differences as well as their overall tone of the two characters that make Carell and Buscemi a great on-screen team.

It’s been a while since we have seen Jim Carrey in a film and its nice to see him back in the comedy realm. Carrey as an actor has always impressed me since I know he has always been known for comedy yet his dramatic world gets all the praise. I think his role as Steve Grey in this film works for him because it allows him to be zany and over the top, but it fits the type of character that he is playing. Carrey is a complete whacko in the film and even has his own television show entitled “brain rapist” which is a pretty funny title for a show about outlandish magic stunts. It was my fear that having Carrey and Carell play two really silly characters would be way too much to handle, but it really wasn’t the case at all. They both had there moments where they shined and it never felt like there was too much of either actor.

Along with Carell, Buscemi, and Carrey, you have some great supporting characters including the beautiful and talented Olivia Wilde who plays Jane, as well as the always great Alan Arkin. Wilde is great as the assistant for Burt and Anton. She took on this job because it is also her dream is to break into the magic business. As Jane Wilde plays a strong female character that brings substance to the film and she also has great chemistry with Burt. Arkin plays the washed up magician who everyone was inspired by when they were younger. Arkin’s role is rather small but it does play a critical part to how the story plays out. His connection to Burt really holds the film together by giving the audience a look into what made him so passionate about the world of magic.

There are so many funny moments throughout the film and majority of the jokes work and produce some solid laughs. The film is an odd mixture of smart comedy and slapstick, but I feel it works great using both. The film features several memorable scenes including one involving Burt’s bed as well as the best use of product placement in a film that I have seen in quite sometime. There are, of course, a few jokes that don’t work, but to be honest its rare that they fall flat. I also want to point out that I loved how the humor in this film stayed pretty clean and didn’t go overboard. I always feel comedies nowadays go too far with the jokes, but this one knew where to draw the line and that’s why I think it works so well as a whole.

To be 100% honest, I don’t ask much from comedies other than to make me laugh and keep me entertained. This film did this and it did it well. If I had to say anything negative about the film, I would simply have to say that there were certain moments where the film felt rushed. I loved the opening of the film because it took its time showcasing so much of Burt and Anton show but as the film went on it seemed to be rushing towards its conclusion. One particular scene that annoyed me was an apology scene featuring Burt and Anton that while funny is rather poorly executed and timed. The film just felt rushed at times and while it wasn’t a huge deal, it was still something that stood out to me.

In conclusion, I honestly enjoyed The Incredible Burt Wonderstone a whole heck of a lot. The entire cast looked like they were having a blast while making this film and it was a solid and enjoyable comedy. While the film may not appeal to everyone, those who are fans of Carell or Carrey will more than likely love this film. It’s truly been a while since I have seen a mainstream comedy that made me laugh as much as this one did and wasn’t crude but instead is genuinely funny with great characters. The film really does deliver some great comedy magic and it is a great time at the movies. If you are a fan of comedy that relies more on actual acting and dialogue rather than gross out moments than I think you are really going to enjoy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is an 8 out of 10.

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