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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, Jim Carrey
Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Directed by Don Scardino

IN SHORT: A film which is as entertaining as it is emminently disposable [Rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language . 97 minutes]

or . . . Not Incredible but not a loss. Sometimes a movie is just a movie and that's just fine. Those of parental age can set their preteen (9 - 11) kidlets up in their own row in the front of a local theater while they settle in to the back rows.

"Magic" was different when Cranky was a kid. As legitimate form of entertainment, "magic" ran the gamut from rabbit hiding and card wielding sleight of hand tricksters to hand-cuff shedding escape artists. Here in New York we watched "The Amazing Randi" on a local weekend kids' show called Wonderama and had the good fortune to become acquainted with Harry Houdini's best friend, Walter Gibson (creator of The Shadow and an expert writer about things magic in his own right). For those of you who have no idea what we're babbling about, please set your WABAC machines to recall  the once famous Las Vegas team of Siegfried & Roy. Now subtract the animals and the unpleasant end to their fabled career. There, you have a general idea of the pairing of the likes of the fictional Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), who discovered magic tricks in a boxed set marketed by the equally fictional, but supreme magician of their personal universe, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).

Of course, if you don't know what a WABAC machine is, head over to YouTube and search for old episodes of  Rocky and Bullwinkle. We'll wait a couple of days until you get back. . .

Thirty years after bonding as ten year olds, Burt and Anton have risen to the top of the Las Vegas Strip attractions list. Their act has become as stale as the hotel they perform in and this film's Trump wannabe, Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) has plans to tear down his old joint an build a brand new, flashy resort.. Who will headline the place is tossed up in the air . . . there is an up-and-coming street performer slash masochist named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) that has been building a name for himself. Gray produces his own  cable webisodes for a show he calls "Brain Rapist."  There is our headliner's lovely and very generic beautiful assistant "Nicole" -- though her name is Jane (Olivia Wilde). Jane has her own ambitions to be the first femme fatale prestigitator on The Strip. To Burt, she will be just another notch on his belt. Or maybe not.

Those in our readership who have notions of becoming screenwriters should pause for a moment and contemplate the potential for comedic and romantic situations that could arise from the basic characters we've described. Once you've let your creative energies run wild, have a seat at a screening of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and wonder, "where the heck is all the really good stuff?"

We're not saying the film isn't fun. It is. We're not going to hint that Jim Carrey steals every scene that he is in. Except that we just did. It doesn't take much mental stretching to figure out that our pair of stars will split and reconcile . . . we'll leave the how and why out because here The Incredible Burt Wonderstone begins to stretch, in the way you would stretch before starting a workout at the gym.

Whether you respond with a belly laugh or just a chuckle will depend upon how old you are. That's the flat honest truth. It's why we watch the audience as well as the film.  We, who watched Randi and David Copperfield and all the close-up magicians adored  by the late Johnny Carson got the belly laughs, even when the gags and other social situations written in the script weren't all that deep.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone isn't really much more than one big television sitcom. Then again, everything we said in that very first paragraph about family friendly-ness is a pretty good thing. As strange as it may read, we spent a good amount of time wondering when the film was going to cross over into foul language or nastier territory. It doesn't. Again, a good thing.

Those parental units lazy enough to bring their three year olds into a theater be warned -- there is one bit done by Jim Carrey towards the end of the film that just isn't what you want your three year old watching. It involves a drill. You've been warned.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, he would have paid . . .


The film is fun for the growing family viewing as well as being  a totally disposable date flick. We watched. We laughed. We're done..

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