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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone(2013)
Steve Carell, Jim Carrey and Steve Buscemi star as magicians in this comedy from director Don Scardino. When ticket sales for double act Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi)'s Las Vegas stage show begin to dwindle due to new rival Steve Gray (Carrey), the duo pull out all the stops on a big trick. The stunt doesn't go to plan, however, and Anton moves to Cambodia, leaving Burt without a partner or a job. With help from his assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde), and the magician who inspired him as a child, Rance Hanson (Alan Arkin), Burt tries to rediscover his passion for magic and reunite with Anton.
For more about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and the The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray release, see the The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 18, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini
Director: Don Scardino
» See full cast & crew
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray Review
"See? When you say it out loud, it doesn't sound so bad."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 18, 2013
Sleight of hand. Surprise. Laughter. Wonder. Applause. The joy of an enraptured audience. Magic and comedy are forged of the same coveted stuff, and should -- should -- have been a match made in genre heaven, particularly in a flashbang, Vegas Strip send-up starring Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin. Instead, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone sets a decent stage and conjures up a cast of colorful characters, only to wave its hands, make silly faces and shout ala-kaaaa...ZAM, without much in the way of screen magic to show for it. Carell is shockingly unlikable as Wonderstone (redeemed only by Carey's wholly unredeemable street magician), Buscemi's talents are wasted, and the A-list actors' best improvisation isn't enough to salvage John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein's all too ordinary script. Arkin and Olivia Wilde are director Don Scardino's greatest assets and both are terribly underutilized. What remains is a stale, tiresome genre pic that sets up a series of first-rate tricks but fails to deliver a satisfying payoff.
Best friends since childhood bullies and a mutual love of magic brought them together in grade school, Albert and Anthony -- the Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) -- ascend through the ranks to become the headlining act at Bally's Casino in Las Vegas. As the years pass, though, their respect and admiration devolves into animosity, and their act grows as outdated as their style. When the inexplicably meteoric rise of body-punishing street magician Steve Grey (Carrey) causes a very public fallout between the world-famous duo, Wonderstone is left to pick up the pieces. Stuck in a decade-long rut, Burt doesn't adapt to the solo scene, and soon finds himself out of a job, out of money, and down on his luck, looking for a way back into super stardom. His old Bally's boss, Doug Munny (James Gandolfini), has nothing to offer but a bit gig at his son's birthday party. His former assistant, Jane (Wilde), has nothing to give but a couch to sleep on... which Burt quickly loses. And Anton is nowhere to be found. But Burt's biggest hurdle is overcoming his own raging ego, a herculean task that fate assigns to Rance Holloway (Arkin), a legendary magician who has no desire to come out of retirement.
The only thing incredible about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is its cast, although you'd never know it if you hadn't seen Carell, Buscemi or Carrey at work before now. Carell goes out of his way to make Wonderstone a smug, pompous womanizer, and it works. Too well. By the time the overbearing blowhard gives way to anything resembling a human being (a process that eats up the better part of an hour of screentime), there's little left to love, much less root for. Then there's Buscemi, who's so one-note he could be any other actor and it wouldn't matter in the least. His aloof Anton is a shoulder shrug of a bit player, and hardly worth remembering. Which won't be a problem, as he's entirely forgettable; a first for Buscemi. Carey, meanwhile, is hilarious... for about a minute and a half. After that his "Brain Rapist" stumbles from mildly amusing to merely tolerable, rehashing the same gag again and again and again ad nauseum. Wilde is sweet but stagnate, and Arkin, God bless 'im, rips the movie right out from under them all.
That doesn't mean there isn't enough razzle-dazzle to Scardino's first feature film to make for a serviceable rental. If, that is, your local Redbox is low on titles. There are laughs to be had, they're just lighter, weaker, and fewer and farther between than comedy junkies will expect from the likes of Carell and Carrey. And the tastiest morsels? Most come too early in the meal. After Burt and Anton tumble out of a Vegas Hot Box hoisted high above the Strip, Scardino and company seem to run out of the half-hearted ideas that drive the first act, and the movie runs out of steam and shudders to a halt. What follows is akin to a loose series of ongoing SNL character sketches (the sort that continue to pop up week after week long after the sparse laughter has dwindled to polite chuckles). Any hope of a side-splitting big screen comedy is lost; any shot at classic status a shattered dream. Had Carell fashioned Wonderstone into a glib but well-intentioned underdog -- a bullied manchild clinging to fame as a placeholder for self-worth -- or if the filmmakers had devised a sharper satire of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Magicians' Oath, high-dollar Vegas showstoppers, or the culture clash between street and stage magicians, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone might be an entirely different film. And a much better, much funnier one at that.
For a different, more positive take on the film, read Brian Orndorf's 3-star theatrical review.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone's 1970s-esque 35mm photography may not be all that marvelous in high definition, but its proficient, faithfully presented 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer puts on a solid show nonetheless. Colors are flashy and flamboyant when Burt and Anton preform, drab and dreary when the lights are low, and washed out and hotly lit when off stage, all presumably as intended. Fleshtones are often either overly bleached or a touch over-saturated, though, and shadows frequently suffer from severe crushing, both of which prove problematic, even if most, if not all, of the problems trace back to the source. Thankfully, edge definition is reasonably refined, with revealing closeups, nicely resolved textures, intact grain and decent delineation, and only a handful of scenes are soft and poorly defined. (Wonderstone and Marvelton's "Hangman" illusion is racked with mediocre clarity, aliasing and chunkier, noisier grain.) On the flipside, ringing is nowhere to be found, and artifacting and banding are in exceedingly short supply. It isn't always pretty, but this is about as good as it's going to get.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sadly, "incredible" rings hollow yet again. Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is tied to The Incredible Burt Wonderstone's largely front-heavy sound design, and the results are less than spellbinding. Dialogue is clear and intelligible, without anything in the way of prioritization mishaps; sound effects are bright and satisfying, with little that amounts to a disappointment; and dynamics are passable, despite the fact that low-end output is rather noncommittal on the whole. The LFE channel is restrained much too often, though, and the rear speakers phone it in, all of which leads to a rather thin, malnourished soundfield. Oh, there are commendable cross-channel pans, able-bodied directional effects, and enough movement to prevent stereo-mix malaise from setting in, but primarily during Burt's large-auditorium performances, and even then only when extra oohs and aahs are required to sell the spectacle and impact of an illusion. Otherwise, Wonderstone is a fairly flat, uninvolving series of center-channel conversations with a few sonic flourishes thrown in for good measure. It isn't a complete letdown, it simply isn't all that immersive or remarkable. Suitable to the task at hand? Absolutely. So much so that it goes above and beyond? Unfortunately, no.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone could've worked. Could've clicked. Could've left its audience in stitches. Could've arrived on Blu-ray as the proud, conquering classic comedy it was once destined to be. Coulda, coulda, coulda. Instead it flails and flops, a victim of the ordinary, a slave to routine. It's especially disappointing when considering the caliber of its cast, which should've taken the film from the street to the big stage without a hitch. Thankfully, Warner's Blu-ray release is better... but only just. Its small selection of extras is a letdown, its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is decent but somewhat uninvolving, and its solid but imperfect video presentation is the highlight of the disc. As usual with comedies, I'm sure there are those out there who will have a blast with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. I just seriously doubt anyone will walk away saying it was all that it could be, and that's exactly what I expected from Carell, Carey, Buscemi, Wilde and Arkin: the be-all, end-all of Vegas Magic comedies.
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Blu-ray.com and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment are offering three members an opportunity to win a copy of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which stars Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin and the late James Gandolfini. The Vegas Strip ...
• The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray - April 25, 2013
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