A Movie for Masochists
This is the fault of none of the actors involved in this movie. There's a lot of talent present here, seasoned veterans who have been making us laugh for decades. Many of the jokes land perfectly on their feet. The pacing is perfect, the cinematography is glitzy and colorful. This movie had every chance to succeed.
What kills this movie is the fact that it does not listen to the very message it is giving the audience. Burt Wonderstone is about artistic integrity, keeping your passions alive, and avoiding the easy way to popularity. And these themes are presented in the most formulaic, trite, soulless package released in theaters in years.
A damn shame is what this movie is. I know very few people who ever saw it. We unlucky few can never forget it.
"The Incredible Beer Whiskeystone": The Rules
1. Drink for Title Drops. For easy mode, that's every time you see or hear "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."
2. Drink when they drink.
3. Drink for daddy issues.
4. Drink when a magic trick is performed.
5. Drink when someone gets hurt. Characters in the movie only, please.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Title Drops: Drink when someone says "Burt Wonderstone".
2. Drink when Jane is called "Nicole". Those women. So interchangeable, amarite?
3. Drink when someone says the name of a magician's act. Or in the case of Steve Grey, his primetime television show.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Title drops. Drink when someone says the word "Incredible".
2. Drink for applause
Krissy Pappau: The Extraordinary (Medium)
The Fuzzy Masked Man: Already has a great magician name (Easy)
Shirley Whiskas: They call her "Magic Bitch" (Easy)
Pooh Daddy: The Powerful (Medium)
Some Guy: The Attentive (Hard)
Seb: The Omnipresent (Medium)
This movie's only sort of fun; it's our game that's truly incredible. Let's play the Burt Wonderstone drinking game!
What are You DOING Here?
Let's get this out of the way, first: this is one of James Gandolfini's last movies. Already the movie is more depressing. He didn't know he would die that summer. He thought he had time. Nope. Burt Wonderstone stole his time.
Buscemi delivers a truly soulful performance as Anton Marvelton, and it's great to see the actor as the A-1 comedian he is. He and Carrell have great chemistry, and he does a lot with very little. The problem is that he's gone for half of the movie, leaving Carrell to carry the rest of the movie himself. Just as Wonderstone finds out during the course of the movie, he can't quite handle it.
Because Buscemi delivers the performance that most closely resembles how Hyu-Mons behave, we felt what we like to call "sympathy" for him. For some of us (Shirley Whiskas), this translated to attraction.
"He's looks weird," she argued, "but then you look at him again, and you're like "Ah"."
"That's human empathy, not attractiveness," countered Some Guy.
The main reason is that the tone of the movie is difficult to nail down. The subject matter is patently silly. A movie about stage magicians, starring Steve Carrell, should be laugh out loud funny. The problem may be that the actors are too good at delivering the pathos written into their roles, because when translated from page to screen the movie is more sad than funny.
"If they weren't magicians," argued Seb, "If they were something else, this wouldn't be funny at all."
Let's take Steve Grey. This character uses self-mutilation and shock value to get a positive reaction from his audience. His "tricks" are often brutal; one minute he'll be digging through an open wound in his cheek (drink), the next he'll be burning messages into his flesh (and drink).
Then, this scene happens.
Later in the movie, Steve Gray drills a hole in his head, leaving himself mentally handicapped - permanently.
"Okay," faltered Fuzzy, "roofies...are a perfectly legitimate way...to do magic."
The thing about dark humor is that it still has to be rooted in identifiable emotions and fully back by the circumstances. That's why it's more difficult to pull off than, say, slapstick. It's walking a finer line between tragedy and comedy. Jim Carrey drilling a hole in his head is not funny because there is literally NOTHING for him to gain by doing so. The stakes are too low. And by showing our protagonists drugging their audience to win their respect, the movie is relying on the same kind of shock value is claims to denounce in the first place.
Beyond all that, the movie has no sense of fun to contrast the darkness. Several of us voiced a wish that Wes Anderson had directed the movie, a man proven to straddle that fine line between comedy and icky stuff. But in a film where the magic tricks are all fake, and the stuff we do see involves exploiting the consumer, we can't help but feel like the film's victims. We are the people being drugged. And no amount of magical appearing butterflies is going to change that.
The movie seems to acknowledge the formula it's following, and is almost subconciously trying to subvert it. Unfortunately, this makes the movie seem even more clumsy.
In a split second scene, Burt throws away a cardboard cut-out of himself. Fuzzy saw this as his "transformation scene."
"No," argued Seb, "It means that he hates himself."
This is an example of the rushed nature of this movie, but the film manages to drag at the same time. The rest of Burt's humanization takes place absurdly quickly - over the course of a month. And during that thime, the character does a complete 180, to the point where he wins the respect and love of Olivia Wilde, who professed deep disgust for him at the beginning of their story arc.
"I don't want him to get the girl," Shirley moaned. We felt as though Carrell did not deserve to win the self-possessed, beautiful, intelligent, tough woman her character is set up to be. No flaws paired with deeply flawed does not a heavenly match make. When the two do hook up, it seems contrived, and even though a genuinely funny scene follows this event, we don't really take it in.
Drink whenever one of the people playing the game laughs
I will give this movie credit, it did get a lot of laughs out of me both times I watched it. So I guess it does its job to a certain extent.
Drink for celebrity cameos
There's a lot of them. And they need your support.
Drink for product placement
This includes fake products. Or products that SHOULD be real.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). Video footage is taken and edited by Seb (Amy Yourd). All "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" related footage is owned by New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers Entertainment.