The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Movie Review
A spoof on dueling magicians seems as good a premise as any for a comedy staring Steve Carell and Jim Carrey. Unfortunately, THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE can’t quite pull off the trick to makes us laugh for the full 100 minutes. To be fair, the film does have a handful of funny moments and I even laughed out loud a few times, but not nearly enough as the wait between each joke was far too long.
Steve Carell (CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE) is the Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a magician who along with his best friend and partner Anton Marvelton (Boardwalk Empire’s Steve Bucemi), headline a show at a major casino hotel in Vegas for the last ten years. Unfortunately their act is getting old and to make matters worse the passion is gone. Wonderstone is pompous, stubborn and bored with his work and colleague, simply going through the motions on stage with the goal of bedding his numerous assistants or even a pretty volunteer. When a new kind of magic man appears in Steve Gray (Jim Carrey exaggerating street magicians like Criss Angel and David Blaine) with his extreme act called Brain Rape, Wonderstone is forced to change. After losing everything, Burt must drop the attitude and learn a valuable lesson about the positives that got him into the business in the first place.
The beginning moments seem to be where most of the funny lands as we see the young boy version of our title character humorlessly be neglected by his parents, cleverly avoid bullies, receive his first magic kit and subsequently his first and presumably only friend in Anton. Fast forward to an adult, we see Burt has become the very bully he avoided all those years. While Burt’s jerkiness provides some very humorous moments, the schtick quickly grows old. But the problem does not lie with Carell who manages to make his terrible character somewhat likable, but rather with the character itself as Burt seems to make an implausible turn from meanie to sweetie in less than a nanosecond. Throw in some other poor plot details and wasted talent like Alan Arkin (ARGO) as an elderly pioneer of magic, James Gadolfini (Sopranos) as a rich casino owner, and rapidly rising star Olivia Wilde (THE WORDS) as a very forced and unlikely love interest / aspiring magician, and we have a perfect recipe for a very underwhelming comedy.
On the otherhand, Jim Carrey (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND) is a breath of fresh air as he steals nearly every scene, providing most of the laugh out loud moments. Unfortunately, Carrey isn’t on screen nearly enough. Hopefully this performance along with his upcoming role in KICK-ASS 2 will remind audiences of his underutilized talent that this type of role is able to showcase. Long time television director Don Scardino appeared to be a little out of his league directing his first feature film, unable to understand or balance the edgy humor with the sugary sweet conclusion. However, the final credit scene provides one of the bigger laughs as it hilariously shows the behind the scene workings of one of the more ridiculous tricks. I believe the film would have benefited if it had incorporated more of this angle throughout.
It’s a shame THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE couldn’t capitalize on the funny premise and the top notch cast. The film lacks jokes and never comes close to the current comedy standard from the last decade such as 21 JUMP STREET, ANCHORMAN, 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN or BRIDESMAIDS. THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE comes off pretty mediocre and being mediocre doesn’t cut it. In fact, mediocre is insulting when it comes to known powerhouse comedians like Carell and Carrey who are unable to elevate this film to the comedic heights of their first collaboration in BRUCE ALMIGHTY. Because the premise and talent level are ripe with comedic possibilities, the film is far more of a let down. Perhaps it might find new life through repeat broadcasts on cable TV. I think we all expect more from comedies now days and that’s a good thing.