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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Review

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) movie poster The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Theatrical Release: March 15, 2013 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Don Scardino / Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley (story & screenplay); Chad Kultgen, Tyler Mitchell (story)

Cast: Steve Carell (Burt Wonderstone), Steve Buscemi (Anton Marvelton), Olivia Wilde (Jane/Nicole), Jim Carrey (Steve Gray), James Gandolfini (Doug Munny), Alan Arkin (Rance Holloway), Jay Mohr (Rick the Implausible), Michael Bully Herbig (Lucius Belvedere), Mason Cook (Young Albert Weinselstein), Luke Vanek (Young Anthony Mertz), Zachary Gordon (Bully), Richard Wolffe (Himself), Erin Burnett (Herself), Brad Garrett (Dom), David Copperfield (Himself), Fiona Hale (Grace), Sonya Eddy (Hanna), Ron Ostrow (Jim the Bartender), Joshua Chandler Erenberg (Judah Munny), Gillian Jacobs (Miranda), John Francis Daly (Paramedic 1), Murray Gershenz (Elderly Man)

Own "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download 6/25
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Steve Carell got one of his first major movie roles in Jim Carrey's 2003 blockbuster Bruce Almighty. The two comedians then reteamed, albeit vocally and probably recorded separately, in the 2008 animated film Horton Hears a Who! Now, they're back together again as rival magicians, with Carell getting the title role and top billing this time around.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opens in 1982, the year that Carell turned twenty. His character, then known as Albert Weinselstein (Mason Cook), is only ten, though, and the target of bullies (a class to which Diary of a Wimpy Kid star Zachary Gordon has ironically graduated). Burt is an outcast and a loner until he gets a magic kit on his birthday from his absentee mother. His dabbling in the art form earns him a friend in Anthony Mertz (Luke Vanek).

Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) and Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) perform their long-running show "A Magical Friendship!"

Theirs is a magical friendship which has endured to this day as a headline act in Las Vegas. Bally's Casino even has a theater dedicated to the partners and bearing their stage names, Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). With their lavish costumes and wigs, Burt and Anton are successful old school Siegfried & Roy-type magicians (minus the tigers). They enter to applause and their theme song, The Steve Miller Band's "Abracadabra", and perform illusions that have become second nature to them, but still manage to wow the masses.

A threat emerges in tattooed, long-haired Steve Gray (Carrey), an arrogant Criss Angel-ic street performer branded "the future of magic" who thrives with stunts like holding his urine for two weeks and sleeping on burning coals. Placing style before substance, Gray is the equivalent of reality television and he even has his own show called "Brain Rapist." Burt and Anton consider him an affront to their profession, but when they instantly begin performing to half-full theaters of advancing age, Bally's owner Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) encourages some reinvention.

Ditching their blonde wigs and bejeweled outfits, Burt and Anton plan, to some fanfare, to spend a week in a glass case suspended over the city. The stunt goes horribly wrong and causes the lifelong pals to have a falling out. Burt tries to perform his show "A Magical Friendship" by himself, to no avail. Unemployed, broke, and missing room service and his giant bed, he turns to Jane (Olivia Wilde), the latest in a long line of assistants, who secretly respects magic and aspires to more. Burt also moves into an assisted living community for old entertainers, where he meets Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), an iconic, long-retired magician who inspired his generation with his video shows.

With some encouragement, Burt plans for his second act, a revival that will begin with a performance at Doug's son's tenth birthday.

Popular street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) is changing the rules of the game. Burt encourages his long-retired childhood icon Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) to consider performing with him.

Steve Carell's decision to leave the television show that made him a household name was not a hasty one. Carell remained loyal to "The Office" even after finding movie stardom and was perceptive enough to recognize that NBC would keep the comedy running longer than it should have.
The 50-year-old comedian has bright career prospects, having graduated from "The Daily Show" correspondent to Hollywood's A-list with remarkable speed. Carell has since built a filmography of hits and solid performers. At the same time, his talents have seemed to be somewhat wasted on schmaltzy dramedies and formula vehicles. My enjoyment of his film work hasn't matched my appreciation of Michael Scott at his best probably since Little Miss Sunshine in 2006. I liked Dinner for Schmucks and some of his animated films have been good, but most of the other credits (Get Smart, Date Night, Dan in Real Life, Crazy, Stupid, Love.) have been so-so at best.

Burt Wonderstone looked worse than so-so. Over-the-top comedy made Jim Carrey who he is, but I've preferred him as a dramatic lead or in more refined comedies like The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Burt seemed like a broad, stupid comedy pitting two uniquely outrageous entertainers against each other in a battle of one-upmanship. While there is definitely an element of that, the film is better than advertised. The Burt Wonderstone of sequined suits, blonde bouffant and come and go put-upon accent is a persona you can digest in the small doses he's given. Carrey's character is an easy to dislike villain resigned to a supporting role.

The screenwriting team of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley do not supply the wit and bite of their standout feature debut, Horrible Bosses. Burt Wonderstone is a far more familiar and vanilla comedy, the kind of vehicle that could easily be tailored to fit Eddie Murphy or Mike Myers if their careers weren't on life support. By forty minutes in, you can already predict how the final hour will play out, with few questions remaining. One of them: will this movie really try to overlook the 22-year age difference between Carell and Wilde to make them love interests?

Though short on surprises, Burt Wonderstone has a decent amount of heart. Carell is an inherently likable guy you're always inclined to root for and while he has exploited his vulnerability on occasion, here he finds a nice balance between buffoon and teddy bear. The world of magicians is a strong context to apply the conflict between trusty-old-ways versus shallow-popular-new-ones. It's impossible not to enjoy the scenes between Carell and Arkin, who are sharing the screen for the third time. Plus there's a good-sized role for the always interesting Buscemi, Wilde is more tolerable than she has been elsewhere, and Gandolfini is comfortable in a rare comedy that no one could have foreseen as one of his last films.

Olivia Wilde plays Jane, a hastily-substituted assistant with greater ambitions. In one of his final film roles, James Gandolfini plays Doug Munny, the hotel owner who gives Burt and Anton their big break, and asks them to stay current.

Carell has repeatedly proved himself as a big draw for big screen comedy, but this film easily registers as one of the biggest flops of his career, Carrey's career, and of 2013 so far. Burt finished with $22.5 million, a sum that other Carell films and nearly ten Carrey vehicles have passed in their opening weekends. Supposedly, Burt's production budget was only $30 million, which suggests smaller losses than the ones incurred on the Carrey-less sequel Evan Almighty. Still, it's a lousy showing for both stars, especially Carrey, who hasn't had a resounding hit in a while and doesn't have surefire successes on his 2013 calendar like Carell's Despicable Me 2 and Anchorman 2.

Barely three months after opening in theaters, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone hits DVD and Blu-ray combo pack on Tuesday from Warner Home Video.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French; BD-only: Portuguese
Extras Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 25, 2013 Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Eco-Friendly Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The picture quality on Warner's Blu-ray may not be incredible, but it is certainly satisfactory. The 2.40:1 visuals feel slightly more compressed than they should be. Still, they are clean, reasonably sharp, and vivid enough. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is similarly and typically pleasing. Though comedies are ordinary dialogue-driven, this one makes prominent use of licensed music and also implements atmospheric noises where appropriate.

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BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray wields four HD bonus features. What the menu calls "Steve Gray: UNCUT" bills itself as "Steve Gray: The Best of The Brain Rapist" (8:33).
It features more of Carrey's character's smug antics (including some bits barely glimpsed at in the film) along with "2010 archival footage" interviews. It's not great, but it is different and original.

"Making Movie Magic with David Copperfield" (8:03) is a featurette in which the magician discusses his consultation work for the film and his cameos used and unused.

A gag reel (4:08) preserves some ad libs, chuckles, and bleeped profanity.

Finally, we get 15 deleted scenes and alternate takes, which run 26 minutes and 23 seconds altogether. They include more of Burt and Anton as childhood friends and teenagers, a pre-show breakfast short, an alternate success montage, more time in the glass box, Anton's surprise visitor in Cambodia, extended doses of Burt Wonderstone trying to get a grip on reality, and an alternate ending. These probably should have been divided into chapter stops.

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The same as the one sold on its own, the DVD here includes
only the gag reel.

The Blu-ray opens with an UltraViolet promo and a Jack the Giant Slayer trailer. The DVD advertises UltraViolet, Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, The Great Gatsby, Jack the Giant Slayer, and 42.

Both discs take Warner's standard approach of placing music over static reformatted poster art. The BD didn't support bookmarks, but it did resume playback to some degree.

The eco-friendly keepcase is topped by a slipcover whose holographic effects distinguish it. The lone insert supplies your unique UltraViolet code.

A more ordinary-looking Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) pulls coins from behind children's ears at a 10th birthday party.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is quite average as far as comedies go, but a little better than its off-putting marketing campaign and scarcely-attended theatrical run suggest. It's the type of movie most likely to delight the casual moviegoer unaware of or unbothered by its formulas.

Warner's combo pack provides an adequate presentation plus an okay 45 minutes of bonus features. It seems unlikely you'll revisit the movie frequently, but this versatile edition would set the average family of four back less than a night at the movie theater.

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Related Reviews:
New: Movie 43 Oz the Great and Powerful Jack the Giant Slayer Identity Thief Quartet
Steve Carell: Get Smart Dinner for Schmucks Date Night Dan in Real Life Crazy, Stupid, Love. Evan Almighty
Jim Carrey: Mr. Popper's Penguins Yes Man A Christmas Carol | Alan Arkin: Argo City Island Stand Up Guys The Rocketeer Grosse Pointe Blank
Olivia Wilde: Butter The Words People Like Us Tron: Legacy Year One
The Prestige The Campaign Blades of Glory | From the Writers: Horrible Bosses

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Reviewed June 23, 2013.



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