Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone vs. Now You See Me, two films about magicians who must re-examine the purpose of their craft.
PremiseIn The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, two washed-up magic makers, Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and his partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), are losing their audience to a new, edgier, and stud-lier illusionist, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). An identity crisis ensues, and Wonderstone and Marvelton realize they need to re-discover their passion for their craft, what makes magic magical. How do they do this? A trip to the retirement home to find the magician whose video they obsessively watched as children, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).
If The Incredible Burt Wonderstone sounds a lot like Zoolander with magicians, Now You See Me seems to be a Robin Hood-inspired Ocean’s Eleven with magicians. A team of three illusionists played by Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, and Woody Harrelson rob banks during their magic shows and redistribute the wealth to their audience in a sort of “Fuck you, corporate Western World” recession retaliation. We wish we’d been in the room when Now You See Me‘s writers pitched their script and have to applaud them for turning the most ludicrous-sounding idea into a surprisingly non-ludicrous trailer.Advantage: Now You See Me
The RivalryThe antagonists in Now You See Me come in the formidable form of FBI agents Mark Ruffalo and (possibly) Mélanie Laurent. Ruffalo wants to know how Eisenberg, et al., are able to cross continents and find their way into high-security buildings in a matter of seconds. Silly FBI, magicians can never reveal their secrets! We’d say it’s the first rule of magic, but according to the trailer, the first rule of magic is actually, “Always be the smartest person in the room.” Wonderstone and Marvelton, aka team Steve, have sequined costumes and Jersey Shore fake tans. Unfortunately, the people of 2013 are not impressed—they don’t want sequins, they want a badass entertainer like Jim Carrey’s character! Someone with long, ombré hair who’s not afraid to lie on hot coals for a night and can go 12 days without urinating. While teams Steve and Jim battle over their bodily functions, Mark Ruffalo has Jesse Eisenberg handcuffed to a desk. The latter seems more exciting.Advantage: Now You See Me
The MagicWould you rather be able to conjure a partially de-boned dove out of a salt shaker, or teleport? We thought so.Advantage: Now You See Me
The CastNow You See Me boasts an impressive roster, including veteran actors (Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson, and Morgan Freeman), comedic actors (Isla Fisher), youthful talent (Jesse Eisenberg and Mélanie Laurent), pretty things (Dave Franco), and the rapper/actor Common. Jim Carrey, Steve Carell and Buscemi, Alan Arkin, and Olivia Wilde are pretty impressive, too; but in terms of quantity and quality, Now You See Me wins.Advantage: Now You See Me
The Behind-the-Scenes TeamThe writers of Now You See Me might be very nice people, but we have a big soft spot for John Francis Daley and his writing partner Jonathan Goldstein. Call it the Freaks and Geeks/Paul Feig effect.Advantage: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Equal OpportunitySomehow, a pretty lady magician named Jane (Olivia Wilde) fits into The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, perhaps as Wonderstone’s protégée or personal pity party. We’d like to think this is because the filmmakers are aware of their gender-normative male magician protagonists and want to show young ‘uns everywhere that anyone can be a magician if they follow their heart. However it is probably because Olivia Wilde is a young, spry, and aesthetically pleasing; and one of the Steves needs a love interest. In Now You See Me, Isla Fisher is one-third of the illusionist bankrobber team. We’d prefer for her to be the team leader, but we’ll settle for a non-love-interest female magician.Advantage: Now You See Me
The VerdictWhile Now You See Me is the clear category winner, we don’t want to be too hard on Burt Wonderstone. Should we find ourselves with 20 dollars and four hours in our pocket come spring, we’ll try to see both movies. Or maybe, by some force of magic, our Now You See Me ticket will transmute into a Burt Wonderstone ticket! Not that we’d ever endorse that.Winner: Now You See Me
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