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Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The

New Line // PG-13 // June 25, 2013 // Region 0
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 21, 2013 | E-mail the Author
C'mon, as if you really need me to tell you about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone...! Skewering doofy Vegas magic shows at the peak of Criss Angel and Siegfried & Roy's popularity -- not to mention those leading turns
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by comedy juggernauts Jim Carrey and Steve Carell! -- The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was a runaway smash when it roared into theaters in 2003. And I...I...wait, what? It came out this year? Really? Isn't sending up deliriously over-the-top magic shows in 2013 kind of like making a Dancing Itos joke or asking "wheerrrrrrrrre's the beef?" I mean, I guess there is a market for magic movies these days, what with Now You See Me still stomping on all sorts of other flicks at the box office, but...uh, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the wrong pretty-much-everything at the wrong time.

So, anyway, world-renowned magician Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) has long been one of Vegas' biggest draws, with a super-elaborate stage show so pitch perfect that he hasn't really had to update it in, like, twenty years. If it ain't broke and all that, I guess. One night, he's screwing network TV starlets on an octuple king mattress, and the next, Burt's down one partner (Steve Buscemi), his over-the-top theatrics are yesterday's news next to brain-raping, Grand Guignol-style street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), and...oh, he's ousted from his gig at Bally's, he loses his ritzy penthouse, he's flat broke, the poor bastard doesn't have a friend in the world, and he's miserable an' he dies.

Well, I had it right up till the end there. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a redemption story about a raging, insufferable, hopelessly narcissistic asshole who hits rock bottom and is forced to claw his way back up again. Aside from the names in the tiny parentheses, you know how this whole thing goes. While scraping the bottom of the barrell doing slight-of-hand at an old folks' home in Vegas, Burt bumps into his childhood idol (Alan Arkin) and rediscovers his love of magic. He grates on the nerves of a perpetually mistreated assistant (Olivia Wilde) who has her eyes on a proper magic stage show of her own, and, yeah, there's
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a whole grrr-I-don't-like-you-wait-yes-I-do romance thing going on. Oh, and Burt's gotta win back his sidekick, he has another shot at superstardom when his former boss opens a ritzy new hotel and is looking for a world-class entertainer to shine the spotlight towards, there are a whole lot of "look at me learning magic!" get the idea.

Sure, sure, the skeleton of its story is lazy and hopelessly derivative and all that, but if The Incredible Burt Wonderstone were howlingly funny and a general blast to watch, who cares? Well, that's the thing. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is frustratingly okay. We're talking about a movie that has a terrific cast at its fingertips and a handful of genuinely terrific ideas, but it's...not...really sure what to do with 'em. It's occasionally on the brink of being funny but never really crosses over into an actual giggle or whatever. You've got an excessively long prologue that's desperately tugging at the heartstrings and generally comes across as depressing and heavy-handedly schmaltzy. Burt is such a raging prick that -- especially when you heap on his nails-on-chalkboard affected accent -- the movie's genuinely painful to watch at times. Asshole-makes-good stories can work if there's a real warmth and sincerity behind it, but The Incredible Burt Wonderstone doesn't aim any higher than formulaic product. When it comes time for Burt to learn to be an all-around good guy, it's soft, sappy, and toothless. On one hand, this seems like a family flick that was made expressly with wide-eyed eight year olds in mind, and then you have condom magic tricks and a dude carving a folded-up playing card out of his cheek with a freakin' knife. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone can't decide if it wants to be a hard-R dementedly dark comedy or soft, squishy fun for all ages, and it settles into just about the most mediocre middle ground you can fathom. I mean, yeah, the cast somehow manages to elevate it somewhat. Carrey's Criss Angel riff gets stale quickly but is fun for a while, Olivia Wilde brings the same sort of joy and excitement that made the almost-as-dire Tron: Legacy vaguely watchable, the ::sniffles!:: late James Gandolfini has a small part as an eh-I'm-rich-screw-you casino mogul, and Alan Arkin is Alan Arkin, so there's not a whole lot else for me to say there. Ugh. This is just a limp, lazy, lifeless, unimaginative, at-least-a-decade-past-its-expiration-date comedy that can't be bothered to decide who it wants to pander to, exactly. Not unwatchable, so I guess there's that, but why bother? Skip It.

For a shiny new movie fresh out of theaters, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is...well, more like The Underwhelming Blu-ray Disc. It's bright and reasonably colorful, but the palette doesn't dazzle the way I was expecting it to. Definition and detail are noticeably high-def but wholly unremarkable. There's a definite filmic texture to this whole thing, but it still looks really processed. I also swear that some brief moments look as if they've been deliberately filtered like this closer shot of Olivia Wilde. Is digital noise reduction the new Vaseline-on-the-lens?
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Whatever. This presentation is about as mediocre as the movie itself. If anyone cares, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is technically a dual-layer disc, not that the AVC encode takes advantage. If you couldn't tell by the screenshots, you're lookin' at a scope presentation too.

The hits just keep on comin'! Nevermind that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is lugging around all the right cinematic specs: lossless audio, 24-bit, 5.1, and all that. The surrounds are pretty much dead outside of a few smatterings of applause and reinforcing the music. The subwoofer's basically twiddling its thumbs for ninetysomething minutes, although eeeeeeeeeevery once in a while, there'll be some deep, low-frequency resonance punctuating an effect or something in the score. The audio as a whole seems unusually soft and meek, and although I didn't care enough to do a direct comparison with the DVD in his combo pack, I have a really hard time believing there'd be much of a difference. I'm not saying I expect The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to sport some spastic, hyperaggressive sound design as if it were a $280 million summer blockbuster, but even by comedy standards, it sounds like someone dozed off at the mixing board.

Along for the ride are Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs (448kbps) in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Subtitles are dished out in English (SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese, and whatever language that square symbol is.

  • Steve Gray UNCUT (9 min.; HD): A best-of reel with Jim Carrey skewering Criss Angel...not literally, although that would've been a heckuva lot more interesting to watch. Despite sprinkling in some very brief in-character interviews and some
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    behind-the-scenes peeks, this is basically just a collection of stuff from a movie you just finished watching. Who cares?

  • Making Movie Magic with David Copperfield (8 min.; HD): The legendary magician shows off a trickillusion he came up with for the flick, chats about how his quick cameo was meant to be a whole lot meatier than it was, and then goes on for a bit about how much movies and magic have in common. The best thing on this Blu-ray disc all around.

  • Gag Reel (4 min.; HD): Lame, laughless screwing around and Line-o-rama style improvs. Oooooh, I'm so full of contempt that I can't even be bothered to write a complete sentence!

  • Deleted Scenes and Alternate Takes (26 min.; HD): With as awful as the finished product is, try to fathom the depths of the stuff that wasn't good enough to make it in. I lost count after a while, but I think there are 83,000 different montages, there's more of Steve Gray not peeing, a pre-show breakfast video that I swear drones on for seven and a half hours, a botched reunion, a longer finale, and lots and lots and lots and lots of bickering. Again, you score a couple of additional improvs, but, yeah, it's all pretty dreadful.

This is a combo pack, so yeah, there's a DVD and an UltraViolet digital copy code squirreled around in here somewhere. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone comes packaged with a slipcover too.

The Final Word
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein reportedly wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen drafts of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone's screenplay over the course of several years, and...really, it took that long to come up with this?!? If there had been a draft in there somewhere that was more of an Anchorman-style farce and not so slavishly beholden to a paint-by-numbers formulaic plot, maybe Daley and Goldstein could've struck gold the way they did with Horrible Bosses a couple years back. This, though...? Ugh. Why did I even write all of this? I should've just typed "ugh" and moved on with my life. Skip It.
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