The Incredible Burt Wonderstone



Not enough magic to mostly unfunny Carell-Carrey comedy.
  • Review Date: March 13, 2013
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Buried underneath the over-the-top Vegas humor are a couple of positive messages. One is that unconditional friendship should be just that -- unconditional, not based on fame or popularity. The other is that whatever you decide to do with your life should come from a sense of joy and passion, not because of the things it will buy you. Jane's love of magic also shows that women are capable of performing traditionally male-dominated forms of entertainment. And the movie promotes the joy of enjoying the childlike wonder of magic tricks. 

Positive role models

Jane isn't interested in simply being a magician's assistant; she wants to be a full magician. Rance Holloway explains that being a magician is about providing a sense of awe and wonderment, not going through the motions for a big paycheck. Anton is a great (and in many ways, only) friend to Burt, but Burt is a jerk to him until he realizes the error of his ways.


The violence is mostly self-inflicted by magician Steve Gray, whose "street magic" includes dangerous, don't-try-this-at-home stunts like burning himself with a lighter, forcing someone to punch him in the face, cutting open the swelling from a wound, sleeping on burning coals, and drilling a hole in his skull. An early scene includes a child being bullied and punched. A couple of scenes of animals in peril.


Two comedic sex scenes in which women are shown wearing bras and underwear and making out with Burt in bed. Burt has a tradition of picking a woman out of the audience (based on how attractive she is) to help with a trick and then taking her back to his suite to have sex. Burt brags about his quadruple-king bed which can fit "at least" a dozen people. In one of the two sex scenes, Burt and Jane do magic tricks and joke about condoms (she makes a bag of Trojans appear out of nowhere, and he replaces it with Magnum XLs).


One "f--k," as well as several uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," "ass," "crap," "bitch," "damn," "oh my God," "goddamn," and the possibly offensive (faux) TV show title Brain Rapist. Other insulting/demeaning language.


Many Las Vegas hotels are featured or mentioned, as are Big Lots, Bounty, and Trojan and Magnum XL condoms.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink in a few scenes; in one, Burt gets visibly drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is heavy on scatological and sex humor, as well as cringe-inducing scenes of some Jackass-style stunts, but it doesn't veer completely into over-the-top raunch. Language includes one use of "f--k" and several of "s--t" and "a--hole." Main character Burt is known to bed a different woman from the audience every night; two humorous sex scenes feature bra-clad women and jokes about condom size. The violence is mostly self-inflicted by Burt's rival, a street magician who sleeps on burning coals, cuts his skin, asks to be punched, douses himself with pepper spray, and drills a hole in head -- among other things. And early scenes show a kid being bullied. If you dig under the Vegas-style humor, the two big takeaways are that friendship should be forever, and your career should be your passion, not just what you do for money.

What's the story?

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and his stage partner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), bill their Vegas act as a "magical friendship," and it is -- they've been best friends since they were middle-school nerds who discovered the joy of Burt's first magic kit together. But a couple of decades later, their gig on the strip has become dated and has a dwindling following. When street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) and his Brain Rapist TV show's stunts (usually involving some form of self mutilation) prove popular among teens and twentysomethings, Burt and Anton's casino impresario boss, Doug Money (James Gandolfini), demands that the duo modernize their act. Instead, the best friends part ways, and Burt is fired and winds up performing at an elderly home for retired Vegas acts, where he meets his hero, magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).

Is it any good?


Carell has always made offbeat or embarrassing characters likable by imbuing them with an underlying sense of decency (or at least charm) that made audiences root for them. He made the cringe-worthy Michael Scott one of sitcom history's most hilarious characters on The Office. But there's little -- if anything -- to like about THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE. He's an arrogant jerk who goes through the motions -- with his devoted best friend, with the countless women he woos with his fame, with the clever new assistant whose name he can't bother to remember. Burt is so deeply unlikable that when he finally wins over Olivia Wilde, audiences will want to close their eyes or look away.

But it's not Carell's fault that this movie is a waste of his -- and Carrey's and Buscemi's and everyone else's -- talents. Carrey manages to elicit most of the few laughs in the movie with his ridiculous Jackass-meets-Criss Angel (instead of Mindfreak, Steve Gray's show is even more abhorrently named Brain Rapist) "performances." Gray's stunts are both nauseating and the main reason to laugh in the movie. The funniest line, in fact, is courtesy of a physician who deadpans about one of Gray's stunts (he holds in his pee for an insane amount of days): "He should be dead -- he's got more urine than blood!" Which sums up the sort of comedy this is -- a scatologically broad comedy that teen boys may appreciate but grownups will feel sorry for laughing at even a handful of times.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why the dueling-magicians premise of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is funny. Have wild stunts taken away from the entertainment value of old-school magic?

  • Why do you think there aren't too many female magicians? Is Burt right that women aren't cut out to be magicians? Is Jane intended to be a role model? What about the male characters?

  • What does the difference between Burt's and Steve's styles say about the nature of entertainment? Is it inevitable that humor and magic are generational and not universal? Kids: Do you think things are funny that your parents don't like, and vice-versa?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 15, 2013
DVD release date:June 25, 2013
Cast:Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, Steve Buscemi, Steve Carell
Director:Don Scardino
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byDan G. March 17, 2013

Whoa! This movie is not for children of any age.

The title character has sex with multitudes of women; one night stands seems to be his hobby. Contraception is supposed to make this irresponsible reproductive behavior all just fine. Drug use is prominently portrayed as a wonderful thing and the answer to all of life's problems. In fact, the 'happy ending' to this movie is a direct result of illegal drug use. There is the vulgar language common in adult movies, as well as terribly crude humor that seems to be Hollywood's only answer for comedy these days. This movie is so repeatedly low-brow Hollywood that I felt like I had seen it all before. I would not even recommend it for adults.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byStevie111 March 16, 2013

Funny movie has crude content and jokes, as well as story

What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written byironkid21 March 23, 2013

Entertaining, pretty funny Carrell/Carrey comedy has some unfunny parts and isn't the best but still a fun watch

What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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