Monday, April 22, 2013


When I saw the advertisements and previews for BURT WONDERSTONE, I cringed.  I thought it was because I live in Las Vegas and magicians are part of the community (the sisters and I saw Sigfried and Roy before they retired), but I'm sure now it was because I didn't want another movie which sneered at the people it imitated.   Magicians may be corny and outdated but they are still people and paying $11 to see them mocked had little appeal.

However, my high morals drop surprisingly low when the movie hits the $1.50 theater.   I will see anything (HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA [fun!], FRANKENWEENIE [clever!], RISE OF THE GUARDIANS [surprisingly good!], WRECK-IT RALPH [made me cry!], and HANSEL AND GRETEL [Don't do it! It's wretched!]) for a buck-fifty.

I am pleased to report that THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE is a charming film which I enjoyed very much.   The plot is exactly what you think it is when you watch the preview so I won't bother by explaining it here.   I would like to say that the styling and costuming is phenomenal.  Jim Carrey is the bad magician and even his tattoos are perfect, his body being covered in inked chains in the same configuration favored by Houdini.

"Because NORMAL people TOTALLY consider the historical
 accuracy of my fake tattoos in this scene..."
And, in other news, Steve Buschemi looks AMAZING.
"Don't I just?"

For being the guy who has made a career of not being handsome, he cleaned up pretty well.
"Right now I'm channeling Uma Therman.  Steve is trying to be every hockey player ever..."

So that's fun.  What is more important, though, is the tone of this film.  The main message is to remember why you love whatever is it that you do and to find new life within your passion by returning to basics.   This is fine for magic and whatever else one loves to do, but I think it might also reflect what is happening in comedy.  Steve Gray, the creepy self-mutilating "magician" in the movie, is part of the new pain-and-shock-based entertainment.   There is very little wonder and absolutely no joy in what he does.
Pictured: No joy at all.
The comedy correlate to Gray's style of magic would be this:
Pictured: No joy at all
And yes, I am not hip or cool, and I dislike The Office.  An hour of agony.

In the film Burt Wonderstone hits rock bottom and then remembers why he got into magic in the first place.  The humility and joy of it looks like this:
Though a little chunkier cause the only photo I could find is kind of squished.
The comedy equivalent of joy-filled sleight-of-hand is this:

And if she's taking a day off, this guy can fill in:

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE is a movie that doesn't have hours of painful awkwardness (though Burt is a jerk) and it treats the characters with humor AND sympathy.  This movie wasn't popular or edgy but I really liked it.  But I live in Las Vegas and I believe that magicians, even old over-tanned ones who favor sparkles and velvet, can delight any audience when they absolutely love what they do.