Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" (2013)

Every once a while a trend emerges in Hollywood. Multiple projects about the same subject or theme will coincidentally be released around the same time. Back in 2006 and again this year, pairs of magic themed movies were released. In all four cases they were pretty much popcorn fare, even though we got four distinct stylistic approaches to the subject (comic, action, period drama, and sci-fi mystery.) 

The first of these this year was a comedy, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” It is a bit uneven. By today’s comedic standards it is tame, but still crass and even disturbing in parts. Part of that is due to one of the film’s two primary messages. (Both delivered quite “on the nose” and even preachy in their lack of subtlety.)

Burt’s primary antagonist is a “magician” played by Jim Carey. He is really more of a stunt “geek” in the traditional, carnival sense of the word. These performers have always been around, but the point the movie makes is that today’s popular “magicians” reflect a decline in culture. We are no longer looking to be joyfully amazed. We need to be shocked. In the same way horror has turned to gore, and comedy has turned to embarrassment, our culture has turned from delight to discomfort.

That connection to wonder is the second theme of the movie. At the beginning of the story Burt has become a jaded success. He goes through the motions of magic and success without really living. It takes a fall from grace for him to remember what his life’s vocation is really all about.

It is trite and cliché but it does ring true.

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