“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”: Steve Carell stars as an old school Vegas stage illusionist who’s losing ground to the idiotic stunts of a street magician played by Jim Carey. As much as I’d like to see a bunch of professional comedians tear into the awful endurance-trials-masquerading-as-magic garbage performed by David Blaine and his ilk but this movie looks as fun as a migraine. It’s written by the duo behind “Horrible Bosses,” which was a funny movie but not because of the script. It was funny because a bunch of talented performers sold the film’s shambling nonsense with great verve and joy and while I like Carell and have nostalgic fondness for Carey everything about this movie looks like something that Will Ferrell passed on.
Steve Carell is both deeply funny and vulnerable performer but “dueling magicians” is premise so hacky it only works as a B plot to something with more meat, like on “Arrested Development.” Burt Wonderstone is a character that lets him be condescending and pretentious with an atrocious haircut but that’s something that would work as a “Saturday Night Live” sketch not a movie. And while Jim Carey can still make me laugh, it’s hard to lose yourself to his antics when you realize as a 51-year-old man, Carey has to work twice as hard to be half as funny as he was twenty years ago. When watching him mug his heart out, all I can think is how sad it is that his career didn’t change after “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Any movie that sits at the crux of trying not trying hard enough and trying too hard is one to avoid. Also starring Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, and Alan Arkin.
Fun fact: James Gandolfini, who has a supporting role in the film as casino owner, researched his role by talking to professional mindfreaker Criss Angel. A video recording of their conversations would be funnier than this film, guaranteed.
“The Call”: Academy Award winner Halle Berry wears an intensely ugly wig to play a 911 operator who takes a call from a young girl (Abigail Breslin) who has been abducted by a killer who has a connection to Berry. It’s incredibly sad to think Berry went from being a respected actress and box office draw to the lead of a movie that was produced under the WWE Studios shingle in little over a decade. Clearly, Hollywood and the public never forgave the “Monster’s Ball” star for “Catwoman,” the disastrously received superhero film that ended up relegating Berry to the realm of solid made-for-TV movies of underperforming B-movies. It’s strange though, when the Ryan Reynolds led “Green Lantern” tanked, Reynolds played a second banana to Denzel Washington in the weak action “Safe House” and got to continue his career as if nothing happened. So why did Berry get rode out of the A-list on rail? Something to ponder. Also starring Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, and Michael Imperioli.
Fun fact: Berry sustained a minor head injury after slamming head first onto concrete during a fight scene. Sometimes the bear eats you, huh?
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org