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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Blu-ray Review)

Incredible-Burt-WonderstoneMagicians, or Illusionists, have sort of become a dying breed in modern times.  In the 80s and 90s they were a pretty big deal.  There were television specials, tours and merchandising.  Growing up, one of my favorite celebrities was David Copperfield.  I taped his television specials and went and saw him when his tour came to my hometown.  For those who read my blog, by mentioning David Copperfield, I’ll once again tip my hat to Terror Train.  Nowadays, though, the Illusionists seem to be relegated to the city of Las Vegas, little parties or special nights at a restaurant.  The tricks are still dazzling and still marvelous but they’ve been done so much over the years the general public maybe jus thinks they’ve seen it all.  And in place of popularity comes these “street magicians” who perform moreso stunts having them pass as magic.  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a comedy that tries to parody both types of magicians and showing respect to the age old craft.

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Film

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) hold up a 10 year tenured illusion show at Bally’s in Las Vegas.  Growing up best friends since childhood, over the course of their rise to fame the two have fallen greatly apart.  When ticket sales dwindle, and street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) shows up on the rise, Bally’s is forced to ask them to change their act or let them go.  After a disastrous attempt at modern magic, Burt Wonderstone is left to his lonesome to rediscover why he became a magician in the first place with his childhood idol (Alan Arkin) and to reinvent himself for modern times.

Right off the bat, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone feels like an abandoned Will Ferrell script picked up by other people.  It’s very akin to a character piece like Talladega Nights or Blades of Glory.  Except, you get Steve Carrell awkwardly trying to display an outrageous character and not fully committing to what he’s doing.  He’s all right in the movie, but he doesn’t really excel at this kind of gig.  The film also follows the same beat for beat pattern that style of movies follow.  You’ve seen this arc over and over and over again.  The backdrop this time is just magicians instead of Nascar or figure skating.  It’s pretty dull to watch unfold.  You’ll almost feel a magician yourself predicting every plot turn before it happens.

The comedy also follows this every bit of predictability I just mentioned.  I found myself almost saying aloud the punch line to most of the jokes in the film.  The movie and I just connected in a way that we “finished each other’s sentences”.  There’s some snickers to be had throughout the film, but no big laughs ever occur.  Like I said, the biggest problem with most of the comedy is that it’s telegraphed pretty poorly.  Steve Carrell’s Burt Wonderstone is also just enough obnoxious that you really don’t care for him or won’t be sad if he doesn’t succeed.  You’re more just rooting against Steve Gray or hoping that Anton or Jane (Olivia Wilde) are able to be well off in the end.

Jim Carrey has recently been the scapegoat for this film’s lackluster box office and that’s rather unfair.  He’s a side character and isn’t really a heavy factor until the final reel.  Steve Gray is probably the best part of the movie.  They’re right to be light on him in the beginning because at the end when he’s a little more prominent it gets pretty tired.  This movie was sold as a Steve Carrell vehicle, but yet Jim Carrey is being blamed for its failures.  Don’t worry, Jim, you’ll turn heads in Kick-Ass 2 this summer.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is just one of those comedies that are just “there”.  Some may find it pretty funny and enjoyable while I think most will probably feel they could have spent their time somewhere else.  It’s got a great cast but is unable to really let loose with them.  There’s a lot that seemed to be on the table, but very little utilized.  Maybe the restraining PG-13 rating kept it from being more?

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Video

The 2:4:1 frame delivers a very nice looking picture with a very light layer of gain.  Warner Bros/New Line’s 1080p MPEG-4 AV encoding shows good levels of detail and very vibrant colors.  The film’s clarity and detail does no favors to Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey look pretty old, but the picture is true and honest.  Some of the film looks like it’s been touched up to look pretty, but for the most part its very solid throughout.  There are a lot of dark colors (burgundy, really darkly stained wood) giving up some decent amount of detail proving impressive.  The Vegas night looks very nice when being shown, but most of the film takes place during the day or indoors.

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Audio

There is nothing magical about the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track on this disc.  It spreads a rather monotonous sound throughout the feature’s runtime.  Also, the track is a little bit low, so you need to turn it up.  It’s rather disappointing as the audio has no fun and the sound just feels like one tone. This movie takes place in Las Vegas!  There should be loud and clear sounds everywhere.  A lot of scenes take place in a theater house where there should be all sorts of different tracks spurting at once.  There’s none of that.  Center channel vocals are also low to boot.  I had to make sure my receiver was set correctly and check my speakers throughout to make sure it was doing something.  Also provided are 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks of French, Spanish and Portuguese audio.

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Extras

All the extras are encoded at 1080p MPEG-4 AVC with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.  The volume here is set at a much better level than the feature.  It’s just a couple extras, nothing overlong except the Deleted Scenes reel.

Steve Gray Uncut (8:33) A mock up of what a Steve Gray video would look like.  It’s basically making you watch scenes from the film again, cut a little differently.

Making Movie Magic With David Copperfield (8:03) – Magician David Copperfield discusses his early magic career along with his role in the film as a cameo and a trick consultant/engineer.

Gag Reel (4:08) – A short blooper reel.

Deleted Scenes & Alternate Takes (26:23) – A extensively long set of deleted scenes, montages and alternate line readings from the film.

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Summary

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone doesn’t deliver near enough magic to warrant highly recommending it to anyone.  It should have learned to trick the audience into laughing more.  It’s a modern paint by numbers character based comedy.  The Burt Wonderstone & Anton portion of the film may have been better suited for the 80s or 90s when this kind of thing was more popular.  As it is, it feels a bit too late and sort of dated.  The disc gives a great video presentation but its audio leaves a lot to be desired.  There are some extras provided that will give fans of the film a little bit more, but nothing incredibly demanding or setting it apart from other comedy releases.  This may make for a good rental for some, but most should find their tricks elsewhere.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    At least there’s always Olivia Wylde, huh?