The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
When I was young, I remember being wowed by David Copperfield’s Great Wall trick, as well as making the Statue of Liberty disappear. That was in the late 80s – early 90s, and magic was often dark and mysterious, and full of elaborate costumes and beautiful assistants.
As we progressed into the world of reality TV, newer magicians like David Blaine and Criss Angel, and my favourite illusionist Derren Brown burst onto the scene, with more visceral and in-your-face magic, blending mentalism, live audience circling the performer and a prowling cameraman to capture the most authentic angles and ensure the trick was rooted in reality.
Once, it was perfectly fine to saw a woman in half covered in a box. But with the advent of youtube and the opening up of the information superhighway, that trick was quickly explained away as “that box is bigger than it looks”.
So now, n Criss Angel’s Believe (in 2012), the game’s since been upped to saw a woman in half on an open plank. Gross, but man, how’d he do that?!
In a similar vein, we see 2 old time Vegas stage show magicians trying to keep up and stay relevant in the age of street magicians.
Steve Carell plays the titular Burt Wonderstone, half of the duo, together with Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), who were once popular stage magicians. However, 10 years performing the same tricks over and over cost them an audience and passion, resulting in them going through the motions to a 20% crowd.
In danger of losing their headlining act, things get worse when street magician Steve Gray (a back to form Jim Carrey) starts grabbing the headlines (and the money), with his antics and a tv show, Brain Rapist.
Together, Burt and Anton has to get their act together, if they are to have any chance at redemption.
Burt Wonderstone received pretty bad reviews, mostly for its uneven tone and pacing. But I was just entranced by the magic on display. Sure, there are problems with the film, but I came away liking what I saw.
And if I were to experience that last trick in the audience, I’d be super impressed!
Also, bonus points for casting Olivia Wilde as the magician enthusiast-assistant.
Fun fact: David Copperfield not only had a cameo in the film, but also acted as a consultant on set.