There was a time when we got a little too much Jim Carrey in movies. But in his long absence from starring in his own comedic vehicles and in the case of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, more of the guy might have made a big difference.
Sadly, not only does Carrey not get enough screen time, but his character isn't given much of a backstory, which is too bad because he's far more interesting that Burt Wonderstone himself. And that's not the fault of Steve Carrell in the title role either, it's more to do with a script that really lacks a comedic punch.
As basically conveyed in the trailer, Burt Wonderstone (Carrell) and his magical cohort, Anton Marvelton (a game Steve Buscemi) are a Vegas magician act in the vein of Siegfried and Roy, but after decades together, things have turned routine and nerves are frayed between these longtime friends.
Things are further complicated by the fact that they're far from the hottest act in town--that honor goes to street magician Steve Gray (Carrey), who is basically Criss Angel with a little David Blaine thrown in. His magic tricks consist of subjecting himself to bodily harm and surviving, something he does for his own TV show, "Brain Rapist."
Carrey owns his character comically as well as physically--he's replete with long rockstar hair and a torso tattoo depicting chains across his toned body a la Houdini with a back inscription that asks "Escape from what?" He's hilarious in his ridiculousness, which basically stems from the fact that his act isn't that far off from his real-life inspirations. What's really missing is who Gray is and what he really wants out of his career. Instead we only get hints as to what inspires him and why.
Instead the movie focuses on the inevitable comeback of Burt and Anton, but too much time is spent watching Carrell trying to find his inner kid wonder, which he does with the help of his assistant, Nicole (Olivia Wilde) and childhood hero and mentor, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin). As funny as we know Carrell can be, he doesn't get enough chances to crack us up because there's not enough laughs in the script (by Horrible Bosses writers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley).
James Gandolfini tries to get into the fun as Bally's owner Doug Munny, but it's hard not to recognize all the missed opportunities in this movie. The concept is so rife for laughs, but instead we get a familiar comeback story with an ending that feels implausible even for this kind of comedy.
Here's hoping the idea of a comedy based on headlining magicians isn't forever lost, but The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not it.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opens in theaters today.