As part of the opening night festivities for the 20th annual SXSW Film Festival, the premiere of the highly anticipated Hollywood comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was held at the paramount theater. It seemed a little odd that a major film such as this would make its debut at , our little festival, but I suppose it’s all a part of the winds of change. Every year, more and more bigger releases make their first public showing in Austin. Last year, for example, saw the openings of both Bridesmaids and the big name Hollywood remake of 21 Jumpstreet as part of the South By party. So I suppose it makes sense that they would try their hands at this one as well.
There was much fanfare as moviegoers wrapped around the block in attempt to make their way into the screening which featured appearances by stars Steve Carrell, Jim Carrey, and Olivia Wilde. It was rather exciting to be a part of that experience, I’ll say that much. As to the movie itself? Well, let’s just say that there was nothing at all incredible about it.
The movie follows lifelong friends and magician team Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton as they attempt to overcome the perils of a stale act and egotism. Wonderstone (Carrell) has long since forgotten the passion he held for magic in his youth, the passion that drove him to pursue his dream of becoming a world famous stage magician. He has a cush job at a Vegas hotel and lives the lavish life of a stardom that includes a personal suite in Vegas as well as the much touted “largest bed in the state”.
Of course, like most egotists, he uses he has become complacent in his status and uses his fame to insulate himself from the people that care about him in favor of meaningless flings with meaningless woman (whom he even makes sign waivers of consent in order to sleep with him). He’s become isolated from the world in his ivory tower and can barely be bothered to spend time with his best friend and partner, played by the one and only Steve Buscemi.
His world begins to crumble as upstart street magician Steve Gray (played by Carrey who is, perhaps, the sole bright spot in this entire ordeal) rolls into town to film bits for his TV show, a not-so-subtle reference to Criss Angel’s Mind Freak, Steve Gray: Brain Rape. With the new blood in town, Burt discovers that he’s become passé. Ticket sales are on the decline and he finds himself out of a job.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a movie about reinvigorating your passions and trying to find the same sense and wonder and awe you had as a child. Carrell and company all do a fine job, considering the material they have to work with. But the script is as stale as a cheesy Las Vegas stage show from the 80s and, despite great efforts from the cast, there’s just no magic to be found. The film is bolstered somewhat by fantastic performances, specifically from Carrey and the always hilarious Alan Arkin as Burt’s childhood hero, magician Rance Holloway. Despite the strong performances, however, there’s just too much to overcome with this predictable, unfunny script.
The magic, as they is, is gone.