Movie Review: “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” – A Bad Trick

Written by Leo Panasyuk March 16, 2013

Everyone loves magic as much as they love Christmas morning or getting that last slice of pizza or having your favourite song come on the radio. So why is it that a movie so focused on something as joyful as magic give you little to nothing of that feeling, and instead replaces it with an awkward, shift-in-your-seat-uncomfortably sort of vibe? It’s almost as if any and all sense of the true meaning of magic performed a disappearing act long before the opening credits started rolling.

“In Vegas, You’re only as Hot as Your Last Act”


Steve Carell plays the eponymous Burt Wonderstone and Steve Buscemi plays his best friend and stage partner Anton Marvelton and together, they are two of the most popular magicians in all of Las Vegas. Despite performing to packed houses, the Wonderstone/Marvelton duo appear to have reached the winter of their careers, having performed the same trick for many years now. They suddenly find competition not on the stages of Vegas but on its streets in the form of daring and dangerous street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). Gray’s unique form of magic shocks and amazes audiences and it is not long before he becomes the next big thing in Vegas, leaving Wonderstone and Marvelton twisting in the wind, wondering how they could ever follow up an act like his.

“What You’re Feeling is the Reason You Became a Magician”

Film Review The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Even with such a star-studded and talented cast, I felt that this film could have been something… more. The “incredible” Burt Wonderstone as a character is anything but – he’s pretentious, annoying, egotistic and so obnoxious that it honestly becomes a strain to watch. Even though Carell’s character does go through a much needed episode of self-reflection when he meets his childhood hero and fellow magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), it all feels forced and predictable. That being said, he does become a more likable character but by the time he does, the film’s almost over so there’s no time to really express that. Moving on from that, much of the comedy in this film was enough to get a few chuckles but was done in such bad taste it shocked me. Speaking of shocking, let’s talk about Jim Carrey…

“For My Next Stunt I’ll Drill A Hole Through My Head!”


My biggest problem with this film was Jim Carrey’s character and it pains me to say such a thing because I love the man! But when your character has a nickname like “Brain Rapist” I have a difficult time finding the humour in that. Carrey’s character was clearly modeled after street magician Criss Angel right down to his hardcore looks and death-defying stunts. Yet his stunts are so grotesque and so odd that they seem very out of place in a movie dealing with fun, family-friendly magic.  Weaker supporting roles came from Wonderstone’s boss Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) and Wonderstone’s assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde). Gandolfini’s character is your basic greedy casino manager with deep pockets and a shallow personality and Wilde’s character feels tacked on as the obligatory love interest whose only real purpose is to be a pretty face we all recognize in the trailer.


“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” reels you in with glitz, glamour, and the promise of magic but delivers so weakly on each of these levels that you almost begin to question whether or not this is as incredible as you’d expect. Even though Buscemi and Arkin delivered the strongest performances of the film, poor pacing and racy comedy is what ultimately kills this act. If this film had a little more magic in its writing and development, it could have been a much better and much more enjoyable feat. But unfortunately, sometimes what happens in Vegas… doesn’t always stay in Vegas.

My Rating: 3.5/10


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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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