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Film / The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a 2013 comedy film starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, and Jim Carrey. It is directed by Don Scardino.

It's about a successful duo of stage magicians in Las Vegas, Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi), whose careers hit a bump when they have a falling-out. Things become more complicated with the introduction of a rival street magician named Steve Gray (Carrey), who specializes in shock value illusions.

This film provides examples of:

  • A Dog Named "Dog": Creative names are not Doug Munny's strong suit. For example, "The Burt & Anton Theater" and "Bally's Steakhouse." One can only surmise that the original name for his second casino was "Doug's Casino."
  • Accidental Misnaming: As part of Burt's self absorbed nature, he keeps referring to Jane as Nicole (the name of the assistant she replaced) rather then learn her name.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Parodied. Wonderstone and Marvelton seem to come off as this trope, just like the act they are parodying, Seigfried and Roy. Early on, when Marvelton mentions that the two have been "magical friends and partners" since they were children, their lighting rig starts shooting rainbow lights across the stage.
    Burt: We knew there was something a little bit different about our friendship…
  • Amnesia Loop: When Burt and Anton are making Knockout Gas, they open the pot to check if it is ready yet and promptly get knocked out. Once they regain consciousness, they apparently forgot what happened and open the pot to check if it is ready yet and so on.
  • Black Comedy: The disappearing audience trick is probably the best example.
  • Break the Haughty: At the start of the film, Burt's fame has made him an arrogant, entitled Jerkass. Half the film is spent breaking him down.
  • Brick Joke: Burt's concern with how big a bed has to be in the room he's staying in.
    • After Burt and Anton witness Steve's first trick, Steve makes Burt sign a release form allowing his face to be shown on TV. When Anton asks if he has to sign as well, Steve rudely responds that he can pixelate Anton's face if he wants to. Later on when Burt is watching Steve's trick on TV, Anton's face is the only one in the crowd to be pixelated.
  • Broken Pedestal: Subverted! Burt's idol and inspiration, Rance Holloway, still enjoys magic and pleasing his audience. He only quit his job and retired because it felt rote and stale, believing that stale feeling would ultimately ruin the show if he forced himself to continue.
    • Played straight with Burt himself. Jane spent several years idolizing him. He destroys that in less than two minutes.
  • Butt-Monkey: Anton suffers a lot of abuse.
  • The Cameo: David Copperfield
  • Career Resurrection: In-universe. Burt and Anton's act becomes stale and dated and is overshadowed by Steve Gray's Darker and Edgier take on magic. However they are able to design a new trick, modernize their act and get their careers back on track.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Cambodian leaves that knock users out for an hour.
  • Cleavage Window: Nicole's Lovely Assistant costume has one when she is working for Gray.
  • Comically Cross-Eyed: Steve Gray is left a with a humorous cross-eyed look after he drills a hole into his head.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "And if you like steakhouses, you'll love Bally's signature steakhouse, Bally's Steakhouse."
  • Elvis Impersonator: One of the Vegas retirees is an old Elvis impersonator playing bingo.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: After Burt gets fired from his job at the casino, he finds that no other hotel will book him and he forced to take crappy jobs like demonstrating paper towels at a supermarket and performing for a retirement home.
  • Flanderization: Steve does this to him self due to not wanting to repeat himself and the constant need to shock the audience. In the beginning his act combines a traditional magician's sleight-of-hand with squick. Soon the squick and self-mutilation begins to eclipse everything else in his act, until at the very end he just puts an unmodified electric drill to his head and hopes to live.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: There is no hint of blood the moment after Steve drills a hole through his head.
    • You can see some blood on his bandages about ten minutes later, though.
  • Harmful to Minors: Steve Gray. Not only does he think his self-mutilation is perfectly acceptable entertainment for impressionable kids, he claims he's willing to hit them with a lawsuit if they try to copy him.
  • Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick: Pretty much half of the movie. Even tricks that are explained make no sense. Most notably, partially deboning a dove makes it fit in a salt-shaker perfectly. And although it walks funny, it'll still be able to fly just fine. Totally plausible.
  • Informed Ability: Jane's expertise with magic. Other than one small scene where she demonstrates some tricks for Burt, she doesn't actually perform that many tricks during the film. But she's hyped up to be an amazing magician.
  • It's All About Me: Burt. Wonderstone. This attitude is such a defining characteristic of his, it makes him comes off as an Expy of Michael Scott. At least until much later in the film when he's finally influenced to change his ways.
    • Doug is also like this, even naming his casino after himself. He also can't be bothered to remember the age of his son.
  • Jerkass: Several in the film. Prime contenders are Burt (at least in the beginning), Doug, and Steve Gray.
  • Lovely Assistant: Nicole (Played by Olivia Wilde!) gets the job as Burt and Anton's lovely assistant after the previous one quits in the middle of a performance. Later, she becomes assistant to Steve Gray.
  • Made of Iron: Steve, except in the end, when his last trick actually does have a lasting effect on him. However, it's still impressive that he lived, albeit with permanent brain damage, rather than dying.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Steve Gray is a thinly veiled parody of Criss Angel and David Blaine. For that matter, Gray's show "Brain Rapist" is a play on Mindfreak. When Wonderstone upgrades his haircut and wardrobe for The Hot Box, his image changes to that of David Copperfield.
  • One Dose Fits All: The final trick depends on a knockout gas being simultaneously administered to a large group of people, who must all fall unconscious and wake up almost simultaneously.
  • The Oner: The hangman trick was shot in one take to show that Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi performed it themselves.
  • Only Sane Woman: Jane.
  • Precision F-Strike: Alan Arkin has a great one:
    Steve: I take people's nightmares and make them dream realities.
    Rance: What in the FUCK is a dream reality?
  • Recycled In Space: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby WITH MAGICIANS!
  • Redemption Quest: After seeing that Anton is still doing well in an interview, and being shown what it is like to be a magician with the help of Rance, Burt begins to see the error of his ways and rediscovers his passion with magic, mends the fence he initially broke with Jane, reconciles and get back together with his best friend Anton, and win the talent search show, revitalising his and Anton's career along with giving Jane the opening act.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The Disappearing Audience trick. Where they drug the audience and move them to another location. Twice. The end of the film shows in detail how they performed it. Including callously dragging their unconscious bodies on the floor and throwing them in a truck.
  • Running Gag: Burt referring to Jane as Nicole (the name of the assistant she replaced). He later admits that he even knew her name was Jane all along.
  • Smoke Out: After Rance has a stroke, he makes some melodramatic dying noises then disappears in a puff of smoke but he doesn't get too far.
    Jane: Where did he go?
    Burt: He has gone to a better place. Goodbye Rance.
    Jane: (Whispering) He's under the bed
    Burt: (Whispering) I Know
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Anton attempts to do charity work by doing magic tricks for children in third world countries. Turned out they would have preferred food and clean water.
  • Take That!: To street magicians, particularly the hardcore style of Criss Angel and the death-defying stunts of David Blaine.
  • Technology Marches On: In-universe, one of Rance Holloway's tricks in the early 1980s was "The Amazing Cordless Telephone".
  • Toilet Humor: Steve Gray holding his urine for 12 days... which we never see the result of.
  • Two Decades Behind: The movie is set in the at-the-time present day of 2013, with Anton and Burt's act having been around for ten years. But a Las Vegas magic act being a big enough deal that a Cirque du Soleil show would be a step down from it is implausible in that time line — most of the serious Stage Magician acts that sprang up in the wake of Siegfried & Roy's success in The '80s (the obvious inspiration for Anton and Burt's double act) were relegated to B-level or worse casino showrooms by 2003, which was also the year Roy Horn's onstage mauling by a tiger forced that show to shut down for good, and by 2013 Criss Angel's collaboration with Cirque du Soleil (Criss Angel BeLIEve) had been the company's first production to receive predominantly negative reviews.
  • The Prima Donna: Burt transitions into this after being famous for a while. He spends a good portion of the film being humbled and rediscovering his roots.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Jane's the only female main character.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Big time. If you watched the trailer, then you've already seen the movie.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Burt at first.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy/Bumbling Dad: Zigzagged. It seems Doug Munny does genuinely care for his son... just not as much as he should.
  • What Have We Ear?
    • Burt performs this trick at Judah's birthday party, saving an extra big coin to pull from behind Judah's ear.
    • When Nicole and Burt are in bed, she pulls a condom from behind his ear.