A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: March 15, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: June 25, 2013
- Cast: Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, Steve Buscemi, Steve Carell
- Director: Don Scardino
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- 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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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.