‘Burt Wonderstone’ Lacks Magic

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures


The art of illusion, commonly known as magic, has fascinated man since time immemorial. Where once magic was alchemy and sorcery, it evolved into slight of hand and card tricks. Nowadays “magicians” like David Blaine and Chris Angel perform magic shows that consist primarily of stunts showing how much pain they can take. This is called endurance art and it is not magic.

This is the idea behind the new film, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been friends since elementary school. When they grew up, they became big time magicians at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas and have been performing their same show for 10 years, day in and day out. But then a new “magician” arrives in Vegas.

Steve Grey (Jim Carrey) is filming his cable show, “Steve Grey: Brain Rapist,” cuts his face open and asks, “Is this your card?” and the town goes into a tizzy. This is the kind of show people want to see. Burt and Anton are old hat.

In an effort to reinvent their act, they attempt a feat of exhibition art that goes horribly wrong and Burt and Anton have a falling out. Burt is now on his own for the first time since grade school. He lost his job, his hotel suite and all the people who once supported him have finally given up on him. How will he make it back to the top? And will he have to dismember himself to do it?

This movie is pretty good – nothing to write home about, but definitely worth seeing. It’s a lighthearted comedy aimed at a bit more mature audience that is sure to bring some laughs. The downside to this film is that all of the magic was digital. There were maybe one or two real slight of hand tricks, but everything else was obviously, painfully fake. At one point, a magician takes the top off of a salt shaker and slams the bottle on the table to make a white dove emerge. It’s a cool trick, but there is no way a full size dove fits in a tiny container filled with salt. To top it off, the gag looks digital. If you are going to try to fool an audience, at least make it seamless and realistic, not an effect from a 2003 Xbox game.

This movie was a great platform to showcase some real magic tricks done by big name actors and they passed it up. David Copperfield, renowned Las Vegas stage magician, designed one of the stage tricks that was really cool, but the camera cut so many times, there was no way to tell if the trick is genuine or if they swap things around during a cut.

Although it was a funny movie, it wasn’t enough to quell my disappointment in the magic when I walked out of the theater.

Rated PG-13 for language, brief graphic self-mutilation and sexual humor, I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars.