The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (“My Rant About Reviews”)

23 Mar


Synopsis: “When a street magician’s stunts begins to make their show look stale, superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton look to salvage on their act – and their friendship – by staging their own daring stunt.” (Rated PG-13; 1 hour, 40 minutes)

Every now and then a comedy is released into theaters, critics bash it over the head somewhat unanimously, and it just confuses the heck out of me. MacGruber? If you like slapstick with a huge dash of raunch, you will laugh so hard you’ll be crying (like my brother Zak did). Reno 911: Miami? Not only did this movie make me giggle countless times, but my skeptical friend Mike hadn’t seen a single episode of the show and still reminisces how funny it was. Just Go With It? I’m sure some people hated this one, but I saw it with a group of about 10 people, and just about every one of us said it was shockingly funny from start to end. Why shockingly? Because what all of those movies have in common are some pretty awful reviews. According to most film critics, those were all examples of awful and unfunny movies that won’t do their jobs to make you laugh. That’s why when you see those flicks with such low built-in expectations, it can create the the most refreshing reaction of all: relief that you went IN SPITE of what you’d heard!

(Editor’s note: The irony is not lost on me. I do realize that I have become a film critic myself within this obsessive blog, and I will inevitably become guilty of doing the same thing to others at some point. The difference is, I pledge my desire to always remain free of the peer pressures of what the “critics are saying”, and give a completely honest opinion. And as any reader of my blog can attest, I have enjoyed more than my share of critically reviled movies, and give no apologies for it.)

No, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not another on my list of hysterical must-see comedies, but it was still a heck of a lot more entertaining than the critics would let you believe. I went to the movie with my fiancée Adi, my brother Zak and my sister-in-law Rikki. All three of them had heard the reviews were lousy, and only agreed to see it as a favor to me. Unfortunately, the movie’s first half hour or so involved Steve Carell as such an unlikable character, that I really didn’t think we’d end up enjoying ourselves. You see, in a “dumb comedy”, there are two things that can make the movie enjoyable:

1. Funny jokes/gags.

2. Characters that you find amusing and pleasant to watch.

Well, the jokes just weren’t consistently funny enough to make the movie work, and for a while I sure didn’t like the main character. Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) was like Michael Scott (also Steve Carell) from The Office, if he stopped caring about what people thought of him. Sure Michael Scott would say and do selfish things constantly, but you felt bad for him because you knew that was never his desired effect; he just didn’t understand human social behaviors and norms. On the other hand, his character Burt Wonderstone was simply a selfish jerk and Lothario. That unlikable character mixed with a mediocre script simply added up to a weak start. Thankfully, as soon as his story arc made him a more humble, and likable character, the movie took on a whole new life. Suddenly you were rooting for him and enjoying the movie so much more. Strangely, the jokes seemed funnier and the writing came across sharper. I genuinely felt like a magic trick had been played on me and I went from thinking it was a lame movie to laughing quite a bit.

Jim Carrey was the exception to the movie, he was perfect as an insane clone of Criss Angel, bringing some of the wackiest shock-value moments of the movie. It also reminded me that Jim Carrey has been wasting years of his career playing such throwaway characters, and I hope this role reminds him how funny he can be when he’s acting completely over-the-top. Steve Buscemi played a very sweet character that reminded me of his adorably simple Donny (from The Big Lebowski). Olivia Wilde was the usual kind of pointless supporting female role in a movie full of male comedians, but no warm-blooded male will object to her being there regardless. Jay Mohr’s role confused me, and I wonder if he had a larger part that was cut out. When first introduced to his character he is an incredibly selfish jerk, but every other time you see him he was a sweet and likable guy, and there was no transition to explain his shift in character. I honestly believe they left out a scene. Either that or they wrote his first scene for someone else, and he accidentally played it himself. Whoops…

Alan Arkin seems to be the go-to-guy for supporting actor roles these days, and always does it so well. Argo? Absolutely, he was even nominated for it. Stand Up Guys? I liked that movie, and he gave it the sweet and funny heart that it needed, and that’s exactly what he does here as well. He helps transform Steve Carell, and the audience, into children watching a magic show, who just want to have a good time. Although his role is nothing new, and completely predictable, it was still a pleasure to watch. Especially the sweet interactions with the elderly people at the retirement facility: I cringed when an old lady cried, and I enjoyed it when they laughed. (By the way, Arkin and Carell had acted together in very memorable roles in the past, for the movie Little Miss Sunshine.)

It was directed by Don Scardino, who has worked in television for many years, but this appears to be his first mainstream movie. After directing dozens of episodes of 30 Rock, it makes sense that he has the knack to put together a decent comedy. One of the writers also wrote the funny movie Horrible Bosses (John Francis Daley, aka. Dr. Lance Sweets on Bones), so I’m not surprised it was a decent comedy overall. In fact, one joke that you can see telegraphed before it happens, is a scene with Steve Buscemi in Thailand  In spite of knowing each joke before it happened, I thought that scene was as funny as anything in Airplane!, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to crack up.

If you enjoy silly comedies, check out The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and remember it’s okay to enjoy a movie that got bad reviews, just ask Adi, Zak and Rikki. All three of them left the movie laughing, and saying how glad they were that they didn’t listen to the critics this time around.

The movie was better than Evan Almighty, a bad Steve Carell movie that was not particularly funny. It wasn’t as good as The 40 Year Old Virgin, a great Carell movie where you didn’t have to wait half an hour to start liking his character.

Quality Rating: B

Boaz Rating: A- (I was laughing more than enough to warrant bumping this nothing-special comedy to a high grade)


4 Responses to “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (“My Rant About Reviews”)”

  1. Ephraim Osgood March 27, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Well you know how I feel about critics and listening top them and this DID look fun so hopefully I can go see and enjoy it now.


    • boazconstrictor March 27, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      Absolutely. It was funny that back to back movies I saw this week (Jack The Giant Slayer being the other one) were so trashed overall by critics but so highly enjoyed by me and the people I saw them with!
      Hope you don’t regret listening to me. 🙂



  1. Jack The Giant Slayer | Boaz's Movie Obsession - March 25, 2013

    […] you shouldn’t believe everything critics tell you, since this morning I posted my review for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and focused on that very message. The same thing absolutely applies to Jack The Giant Slayer, in […]


  2. Spring Breakers (My Rant About Art-House Cinema) | Boaz's Movie Obsession - April 3, 2013

    […] NY Times and other critics can praise a movie like this all they want, and bash a movie like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to their heart’s content, but this is my blog, and I stand by my own taste in […]


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