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Carell toys with magic in ‘Burt Wonderstone’

Sarah Chayer, 4Play Writer
May 1, 2013
Filed under 4Play

Money can’t buy love, but it can purchase a magic kit that can someday lead a child to a Las Vegas stage. There, magic can win over entire audiences and make any performer feel loved.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is playing at the Silver Cinema inside the East Town Mall, better known at the budget cinema. So if you missed it in theaters, now is a good time to catch the magical comedy before its DVD release this summer.

As a young boy, Burt, played by Steve Carell, is bullied and told no one will ever love him. After receiving a magic kit from his mother for his birthday, he decides that the life of a magician is for him, especially after hearing the words, “Everyone loves a magician.”

Burt meets a boy in school named Anton, played by Steve Buscemi, and the two befriend each other through magic. They decide to be partners as they climb through the ranks to become an act at a prestigious Las Vegas hotel.

Years later, after doing the same routine day after day, Burt has become spoiled, selfish and irritating to work with. He and Anton hardly see eye to eye anymore.

After hiring Jane, played by Olivia Wilde, as a new magician’s assistant, it’s extremely apparent that Burt no longer cares about his act. He confesses he has lost a lot of his fascination with magic over the years.

Burt and Anton’s boss Doug, played by James Gandolfini, then confronts the duo about their dwindling audience, claiming  their act is washed up with old magic. New magic is like that of the infamous street performer Steve Gray, played by Jim Carrey.

In a failed attempt to one-up Steve Gray’s crazy stunts, Burt and Anton part ways with physical and emotional injuries.

Without Anton, Burt loses his gig performing at Doug’s hotel and must go out searching for a new place to perform. It’s then that he stumbles across an old folks home where he meets the magician he idolized as a child.

With his passion for magic refueled, Burt goes out to prove that his magic is still better than that of Steve Gray.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” certainly was an interesting movie, but I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. It was entertaining and had a lot of great jokes, but there were some flaws in the film, too.

A lot of the acting was too over-the-top, and even though that is expected from actors like Steve Carell and Jim Carrey, it had a negative effect on the movie. In his attempt to perform the Hot Box stunt, Carell’s character freaks out from the heat of the glass tank, and he literally acts like a chimpanzee trying to break out of it. It’s not at all funny. It’s actually just annoying, especially since Anton is sitting down calmly right next him.

It was disappointing to watch Steve Carell in this role, bearing in mind that he left “The Office” to take on more serious acting. There was nothing about “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” that was to be taken seriously.

Carrey’s character was also exaggerated, as his characters always are, but to the point that the audience is uncomfortable. The so-called magic that Steve Gray performs is mainly just self-abuse in front of a camera. He spends the night lying on a bed of hot coals, alternating between snoring and shrieking in pain. He even cuts open his own cheek near the beginning of the film to reveal the card his volunteer picking. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t entertaining. It was simply gross.

Not only was the acting faulty, but the script also wasn’t the best. It did have many great jokes, there’s no denying that, but the serious aspects of it were terrible. Burt goes from being a pompous, spoiled womanizer to a changed man in less than a minute of the film.

Even as he is struggling to find work and living in a shady motel, he still acts like he is top dog, but as soon as he just meets his idol magician — abra kadabra — he’s an honest man again. Just like a magic trick, he does a 180 to being humble, and even rekindles his friendship with Anton. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing that can happen in a moment that will instantly change a personality, especially one as rotten as Burt’s.

Aside from all the larger-than-life acting and disappointing story, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” did have a nice lesson in that going through the motions is no way to live. A life on auto-pilot sneaks by, stealing what passion you may have once had, so it’s important to embrace change to keep a love alive.