#156 The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Dir: Don Scardino

Sadly not as ‘incredible’ as title suggests, but in places it is heartwarming and surprisingly good.

Steve Carrell (‘Seeking a Friend For the End of The World‘, ‘Despicable Me 2‘, The Way Way Back, Anchorman 2) stars as the eponymous magician, who struggles to adapt and retain his popularity when his act becomes outdated, suffering competition from Blainesque illusionist Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), and damaging his professional and personal relationship with lifelong friend Anton (Steve Buscemi). However a fortuitous encounter with an aging legendary magician (Alan Arkin) could be just what Burt needs to put the magic back in his life!

The film received some lukewarm at best reviews on release, but sadly I think that although it’s nothing brilliant, there’s a really great story and film in there, just the focus ended up elsewhere. It starts as story of friendship between Burt and Anton who became friends as children and have somehow continued together for decades. However when Anton leaves and Burt tries to continue alone he’s hopeless, especially when up against Steve Gray. This is where the film focuses, on the rivalry between them and Burt’s bad attitude, with a little love story thrown in there too with Olivia Wilde (‘Her‘, ‘Rush’).

The best bit of the story however is around half way through. When Burt meets the man who inspired him to learn magic, Rance Holloway, the two form an unlikely friendship, and work to regain the sense of joy that they both once had with magic. This section of the film is really excellent. Alan Arkin is perfect, he gets the elderly grumpy man act just right and there’s real chemistry between the actors. When the two characters hit it off and become friends, the film suddenly starts working on a completely different level, and from there on it’s far better, almost a completely different tone and vastly improved film.

What the film needed was more of these two and a lot less of the stupid and at times crude stuff. If the writers and producers had shifted the focus onto this part of the story, getting to it sooner, it would’ve put more emphasis on the real emotional heart of things, and then a title featuring the word ‘Incredible’ might have seemed a lot more fitting.



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