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home : features : features January 24, 2015


3/19/2013 6:00:00 AM
Reel Watchers: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Becky Whipkey
Golden Valley resident

The story begins with "Burt Wonderstone" as a child being chased home by the school bully. He's told that nobody likes him. This hurts - and on his birthday, too! He enters his house to find a note from his mom stating that she is working a double shift and dinner is in the fridge. She leaves instructions for making a birthday cake, and - there's a present. A magic kit!

The magician on the video, Rance Holloway, (played by Alan Arkin) tells him that "everyone loves a magician," so Wonderstone jumps in with both feet. He is practicing his tricks during lunch at school and attracts another nerdy kid, Anthony. Steve Carell is Burt and Steve Buscemi is Anthony (future stage name Anton). Together, they develop a notebook full of tricks and illusions.

As they grow up, they work wherever they can and develop a following of fans. Finally, they get a contract at a Las Vegas casino. Over 10 years, they get an assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde), but after a decade - which is several lifetimes for a Vegas show - their act grows stale. Their boss, played by James Gandolfini, gives them an ultimatum: Get fresh or get out.

They're also facing new competition in the form of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), an insane street magician who really practices self-destruction rather than good, old-fashioned magic. These scenes were hard for me to watch and I don't recommend them for kids.

Wonderstone and Anton do come up with a new idea, which goes horribly awry and exposes Wonderstone for the self-absorbed jerk that he's become. Anton quits, completing Wonderstone's fall and setting up his path to redemption - at least, by Vegas standards.

This is a story of a man shooting to fame and letting all the fame go to his head. He hits rock bottom and is very humbled. With the help of Jane, Anton and Rance Holloway, he fights his way back to the top, embracing his love for pure magic and becoming a better man in the process.

I didn't like the ending. Still, since I did laugh a couple of times, I give it 1½ Miners.



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