That Painfully Awkward Friend: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Every group of guys has that one painfully awkward friend. A poor schlep who just cannot grasp he is hopelessly incapable of normal social interactions. Sometimes the group as a whole suffers the same denial. At least that is the case with my group of friends. We love our idiot, name withheld to protect the uhm-tarded—let’s call him Special K. Because we love him we turn a blind eye to his peculiarities. That is, until the roller derby fund raiser.

One summer years ago, our local roller derby teams were hosting a silent auction, which was anything but silent considering the music was raucous rock-a-billy music. Because we were broke we stayed at the stage. After a few rounds those of us who could dance, myself and the Special K not included, got out on the floor and started cutting the rug with the derby girls. It would be a lie to say I wasn’t tempted, but I knew better. When it comes to dancing I have two left hooves. By the end of the round we were nursing Special K fired up like a little kid on espresso at a petting zoo. He snatched the first girl that walked by and commenced his assault.

I can call what he was doing dancing only by comparison to a mosh pit. He was slinging the poor woman around so violently that she was more of a weapon than a dance partner. He managed to clear a huge swatch of the dance floor. The room was small so it was just the two of them. They attracted the attention of the bass player who looked ready to stop playing and come to the girl’s defense. Luckily Special K decided to stop slinging her about. When she got her bearings she stopped him, patted him on the shoulder and bolted off the dance floor. Special K just shrugged and started gyrating and hopping.

I have no idea what music/beat he was hearing, but it was not what was being played. When I could no longer watch I turned to watch the band. The bass player was still watching Special K, and was so put off by his dancing that he lost the beat. The moment is frozen in my mind: the look of horror in the bass players eyes, Special K dancing fit, the crowd slowing coming back to dance albeit staying clear of the wild man. My eyes were opened. My illusions shattered. My dear friend is a hapless dork.

Dance as if no one is watching. Hmmm?

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the cinematic equivalent to Special K. Vegas magicians with mullets performing a tired old act for years is about as entertaining to watch as listening to a bass player being thrown completely off beat by the terrible dancing of one of your best friends. The fall and triumphant return of the washed up magicians is as thrilling as being slung around by some drunk toenail chewing goon.

Where it’s easy to turn a blind eye to your friend who’s awkward, it’s hard to watch Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carey and Alan Arkin flop around on the big screen. Primus was right when they said, “They can’t all be zingers,” but one expects something redeeming with a cast like this. Comedy is hard and audiences can be unforgiving. Or maybe it’s just me. I have a hard time stomaching bad comedy. I’m still gonna love Special K no matter what he does, but for Steve Carell’s sake I hope his next movie is better than this.

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