Movies: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Watched this one on the flight back from London (more on that trip later, maybe, though Sherl will surely have things to say about it if I don't). I'd wanted to see it in the cinema way back when, but then the reviews had been so mixed, and these days I reserve cinema viewings for things that seem to require the spectacle of the big screen and/or that whole we're-in-this-together feeling of a crowd. Otherwise, might as well stay at home and be comfy.

But it's a long flight to and from London. On the way over I re-watched Skyfall, and it was as great as I remembered it being. (I had the option to choke down Parade's End again but somehow resisted. Yes, yes, all right, I'll quit digging at that stupid mini.) By the way, I'd never flown British Airways before—I'm a Virgin girl—but found them very nice.

Okay, but Burt Wonderstone. Well, it was better than I'd expected given all the so-so reviews I'd read back when it was released. It had the requisite funny moments and the typical comedic touch of pathos. I feel there were places where they'd streamlined more than absolutely necessary when it came to character development and plot points, but it wasn't the worst of that I've ever seen. What I mean is, Burt's turn from almost insufferable to sympathetic character is done in shortcut fashion. And then the entire dénouement also comes as a kind of oiled slide. For one, Burt's battle with Gray should-coulda been more pronounced. And then the final big competition also coulda-shoulda been played up a bit more. There was a lack of tension there as the script chose to focus more on the relationships than the events taking place. And that's not a terrible thing, just a strange choice that on the one hand takes this off the traditional comedic route but on the other creates less of a climax.

The movie did hint at the question of magic versus performance art in that it pitted Carell's titular character, an old-school magician from the line (if not of the skill) of Copperfield against Jim Carrey's Gray who acts like more of a David Blaine or Criss Angel. Where is that line drawn? When does it cease to be magic and simply become a show and/or feats of . . . something. Strength? Stupidity? But then maybe it's all magic so long as the audience remains astounded and awed. The subject is up for debate.

No, Burt Wonderstone is not some magical kind of movie. But it is sweet and cute and fine for a really long flight. Or even for a night at home when one doesn't want anything too heavy.

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