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‘Burt Wonderstone’ not so incredible

Article Published: Mar. 20, 2013 | Modified: Mar. 20, 2013
‘Burt Wonderstone’ not so incredible

Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi star in 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.'

There’s a part in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” where a couple of magicians make their audience fall asleep as part of some grand illusion.

Let’s just say it’s more effective off the screen than on.

“Burt Wonderstone” is a comedy about magicians, yet it fails to grasp a critical concept: A major part of magic is misdirection.

That’s what the film is blatantly lacking. In fact, there’s a little too much direction in this formulaic comedy, which mechanically squanders a talented cast and a promising premise.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi, “Fargo”) have been pals since childhood, after a simple magic trick sparked a friendship that would lead to a professional partnership and international fame.

Known as The Incredible Burt and Anton, they are one of Las Vegas’s most popular acts, thrilling audiences with their “magical friendship” and flashy, Siegfried and Roy-ish routine.

But when rising street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) begins stealing the spotlight with his masochistic stunt-like “illusions,” which usually involve some degree of bloodshed or bodily harm, casino owner Doug Munny (James Gandolfini, “Killing Them Softly”) demands that Burt and Anton update their act.

Anton is game, but Burt is reluctant, resulting in a ridiculous stunt that causes the duo to part ways on less than amiable terms.

Now on their own, Anton starts working for an international relief organization, sharing magic with the starving peoples of impoverished nations, while Burt winds up performing at a retirement home, where he meets the very man who inspired him to become a magician, illusionist Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin, “Catch-22”).

As the two spend time together and polish their acts, Burt begins to remember why he embraced magic in the first place – but is it too late?

Munny is opening a new casino, and Steve Gray is the No. 1 pick to headline the show. Can Burt and Anton rekindle their magical friendship to save the day, and so on and so forth?

We already know the answer. Like seeing the wires in a chintzy levitation act, it’s obvious from the get-go. There’s no misdirection, twists or turns, leading audience members to follow these two-dimensional characters through a series of predictably wacky events.

Directed by venerable television director Dan Scardino (TV’s “30 Rock”), “Wonderstone” may have been a better fit for the small screen, where its formula could have been better tailored to a season’s worth of episodes, better developing the characters and their exploits, rather than a crowded and overlong 100-minute feature.

While the leads conjure up a few laughs, it’s barely enough to keep the audience from performing its own disappearing act.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit

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