- Yes, I agree that self mutilation isn't magic. Neither are tests of endurance. Magic implies some sort of deception most of the time. Those tests should be deception free.
- I appreciate the actual illusion done at the beginning of the movie. I understand that they were going to use camera tricks for the Hangman Illusion but David Copperfield showed them a way to do it live and without stopping the camera (though I don't think it could be done during an actual show).
- I missed the first 10 minutes of the movie, which I understand are about the main character getting bullied and finding magic as a way to escape, then finding his friend and eventual partner who had the same experience. I think that's a bit of a stereotype.
As a magician, there are a lot of comments and questions I hear over and over again, and one of the most frequent happens whenever a movie about magic comes out. People will ask if I've seen it and what I, as a magician, thought of it. So I thought I might put up some of my thoughts on the many movies about magic, whether fictitious or factual, that I have seen. And I'm starting with one of the more recent movies: "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"
The thought I had most often while watching this movie was "Man, I know those guys." Not in a recognition of the gag way (i.e. Jim Carrey's character is supposed to be Criss Angel and David Blaine) but in a "These are like some of the people in my life" way. I was definitely assigning the names of people I have met in the magic community to the characters in the film. I guess it's kind of funny to think that I would identify with so many characters (especially when about half are not nice people most of the time). Maybe the film makers were in some of the same circles I was when working on the movie.
The next recurrent thought I had during the movie was appreciation for the "Respect your elders" message. I personally have a ton of respect for the many great magicians that have performed before and have been lucky in my professional career to have been able to meet and learn from so many. Too often I feel that some magicians see the great performers of the past as merely ways to make themselves seem greater. I often hear things like "This is Thurston's idea but I've greatly improved upon it" or "I've taken Blackstone's routine and now I can perform it better than he did." While I do believe that new ideas are necessary to keep magic fresh, most of the time those people don't even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as those great performers. But the absolute worst are those who feel that older performers have nothing to offer, that anyone past their prime or incapable of performing sleights at a professional level can't contribute, much like the Jim Carrey character in this movie. It's sad, but those people really do exist.
However the biggest idea I took away from Burt Wonderstone was the fear of becoming stagnant in my act. For those who may not have seen the movie, it begins with Steve Carell's character merely going through the motions of his show. He's been performing for so long that he can do his act in his sleep, which results in him putting in about as much energy. I have always had a fear that I could become that kind of performer. When I teach my students about performing, I try to drill into their minds that while you have seen this trick a million times, most of the people in your audience have not and it is probably someone's very first time seeing it. You owe that audience the same performance you gave when you first started. I guess that's maybe why I try not to perform to music and why I enjoy talking with my audience so much. No audience is going to say the same thing, so I can't afford to go on auto-pilot. I have to be in the moment along with the crowd. That way we all experience the magic together.
The rest of my thoughts aren't as major:
Scott Marshall is a magician in Los Angeles. Performing for private functions and out on the street, he loves bringing people together for a good time.