Saturday, March 16, 2013

Adoption Movie Guide: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Burt is unpopular; even his mother misses his birthday party. On his birthday, Burt received a magic kit and was encouraged by an instructional video which promised that by becoming a competent magician, Burt would make people love him. His first friend, Anton, was attracted to him by magic. Burt and Anton spent time together practicing illusions and devising new ones. Eventually, they became Vegas headliners. Ten years later, Burt and Anton have a falling out; Burt has became proud and arrogant and has driven Anton away. Burt’s stage career suffers as a newer, edgier magician becomes far more popular. Burt ends up playing to smaller and smaller venues, and eventually becomes an entertainer at a retirement community. There, he meets his childhood idol, rediscovers his love of magic, and becomes a humbler person. He apologizes for past wrongs, makes amends with Anton, and resumes his successful career.

How is This Relevant to Adoption / Foster Care? 
The movie opens with ten-year-old Burt being chased through the neighborhood by bullies. After they rough him up, he goes home to an empty house. Although it’s his birthday, the home is empty. His mother has left him a note saying that she’s bought him his favorite cake. Unfortunately, it’s a mix, and Burt has to go to the store to get eggs to make his own birthday cake, which he then eats alone. He is promised that if he becomes a good magician, people will love him. Sure enough, he forms a friendship with Anton over their shared interest in magic.

Kids get picked on for lots of things. The wrong brand of shoes, the wrong accent, the wrong taste in music, or a physical or learning disability are often enough to subject a child to ridicule and feelings of loneliness. The same is true for kids in foster care; other kids tease and adults often unfairly expect ill of foster kids. An already painful situation is made worse by insensitive peers and adults. The desire to be loved and to have friends is shared by all kids, and perhaps felt particularly poignantly by kids in foster care. They’ll probably understand Burt’s grief at being alone and rejoice with him when he makes a friend. The theme of “missed birthdays” is very relevant to many kids in foster care.
Strong Points
A Vegas hotel owner encourages Burt to break his partnership with Anton because Anton is “homely.” Burt valiantly sticks up for his friend, saying “Anton and I are a team.” Burt is rewarded when both he and Anton are given a long-term performing contract.  The film presents a positive message, “You need your friends, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by pretending that you don’t.” Burt and Anton eventually affirm that they will always be friends with each other.

Burt apologizes to both Anton and his female assistant for a decade of rudeness. However, his apology to his female assistant is fairly quickly rewarded by sex, which could certainly help kids develop confused ideas of how communication works in relationships, and misguided expectations of how their apologies should be rewarded.

Weak Points

Burt has become egotistical, insensitive and rude. He propositions women frequently and seems to have a system for creating one-night-stands. He is rude to Anton and especially rude to his female assistant.

A street magician harms himself on several occasions. He performs stunts such as cutting his face, holding his urine, and drilling into his own brain. Burt makes a particularly insensitive comment – in response to seeing the street magician mumble and cut himself as part of an act, Burt dismisses it by saying, “my niece does that.” Many kids struggle with cutting and other self-harming behaviors, and it might be even more prevalent in the population of kids in foster care. It’s not a good topic for a joke.

Burt and Anton drug rooms full of non-consenting adults. Burt expresses his belief that men are better than women.  There’s an insensitive joke about Mexican water. There’s some rough language in the movie. A scene where an elderly man approaches death may be traumatic to some young viewers.


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has plenty of gruesome street magic and off-color sex jokes which earn it the PG-13 rating, and it probably isn’t a good pick for kids younger than 13, but teenagers between the ages of 14-17 would probably enjoy the movie’s sense of humor and could also connect with the premise of an unpopular child desiring to make friends and ultimately becoming popular. The film’s message – “you should value and respect your friends” is a valuable one. It’s your call whether that message is worth the laundry list of “Weak Points.”
Questions for Discussion after the movie
Do you think Burt was saddest about being bullied, his mom missing his birthday party, or something else?

Why did Burt and Anton become friends? Why did they stay friends? Do you think their friendship will be stronger or weaker now that they’ve fallen out and gotten back together?

How do you try to make friends? How do you show them that you care about them?

Have you ever known someone who acted like they were more important than their friends?

Burt and Anton were mad at each other.  It seemed like they were going to have to spend a week together in a box. If Burt hadn’t been able to escape – they would have had a week to talk, or a week to stay silent. What do you think would have happened?    Is there anyone you’re not talking to? How would it go if you were given time where you either had to talk or stay silent for a week? 

Like these Adoption Movie Guides? Think about Liking Adoption at the Movies on Facebook, and check out my Twitter feed.

You might also enjoy these Adoption Movie Guides

No comments:

Post a Comment

Open Adoption Blogs