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Movie Review

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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Director: Don Scardino

Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey

Duration: 100 minutes

Certificate 12A

1 of 3 Burt, the vain megalomaniac entertainer who needs the world to love him
Burt, the vain megalomaniac entertainer who needs the world to love him
2 of 3 The Incredible (and Insecure) Burt Wonderstone, played by Steve Carell
The Incredible (and Insecure) Burt Wonderstone, played by Steve Carell
3 of 3 Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) and Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell)
Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) and Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell)

This will be an interesting movie to schedule on its future TV nights, which no doubt will come around in good time. It seems a bit scary, say, for RTÉ One’s Big Big Movie slot, which usually goes out around 6.35pm on a Saturday evening.

So really, it seems safer to make it a Wednesday night movie. That's because, as well as the scary masochistic street performer character, who performs bodily harm on himself, there are some mild examples of what used to be called 'adult scenes.'

That’s a roundabout way of saying that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is just almost, unadulterated entertaining family fun. The movie begins in 1982 as young Burt is bullied by an older boy who tells him that nobody likes him. The bully makes the poor chap eat tree bark and winds him with a punch in the belly.

The disconsolate young Burt goes into his house, where his mother has left written instructions on how to bake his favourite chocolate cake. She is working a double shift, and is sorry she can’t be there, so young Burt stoically celebrates his birthday alone. That’s the dysfunctional childhood gently signalled, the scene deftly set.

So, nobody likes him huh? Hey presto, the solution lies in mom's birthday present, a magician’s starter kit. Now everybody will start to love him, given that everybody loves a magician. There is a video too from which he learns basic tricks, as demonstrated by a famous illusionist Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin.)

Burt teams up with another young boy, Anton, and the pair become a double act. Indeed the adult Burt (Steve Carill) and Anton (Steve Buscemi) earn millions of dollars in their sell-out residency at Bally’s in Las Vegas, hired by its demanding owner-impresario (James Gandolfini from The Sopranos).

By the time we meet them as adults, the guys have gotten tired of working with each other, doing the same tricks. Moreover, there is a lot of talk about this new kid on the block, the guerilla street performer Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). Gray does masochistic stunts which involve self-mutilation, while cameras film all his antics for his popular web show.

Despite the voyeuristic appeal of his bizarre behaviour, Gray's act patently isn't magic, it’s “monkey porn,” as Burt tells him. After his lucky streak on the strip runs out, will Burt stop being the vain, megalomaniac entertainer who needs the world to love him (and, if they are young women fans, sleep with him?) Oh, that would be telling you, and magicians never tell their secrets. File under 'entertaining froth.' The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is good, but it's lacking the something that makes for timeless comedy.

Paddy Kehoe

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