While comedies are a dime a dozen lately, good satire is very rare. A good satire mercilessly pokes fun at its subject while being respectful at the same time, allowing the audience to enjoy the subject as well as laugh at its inherit silliness. Think Best in Show and Waiting For Guffman for instance.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone may not quite be in the same caliber as a Christopher Guest film, but is still respectful of the performing magicians and their trade, while poking fun at their bizarre nature at the same time, making this a wonderful comedy.
After being headliners at a prestigious Las Vegas stage for 15 years, magician Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) has lost his love for his craft, and his ticket sales are dwindling because of it. Despite the advice of his longtime partner Anton (Steve Buscemi) to update the now-stale act, Burt finds himself in a losing battle against edgy street performer Steve Grey (Jim Carrey), especially after Anton splits and Burt finds himself without a job, and without a clue how to get back in the limelight. Now, with the help of his former assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) and his childhood idol Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), Burt will find a way to reinvent himself.
Director Don Scardino (TV's 30 Rock) and writing team Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses) expose the bizarre, goofy world of stage magicians with flare and humor, while displaying what we love about live magic. Scardino's minimalist approach works brilliantly with Goldstein and Daley's sharp, funny script, making it accessible to all audiences while touching that special place for satire lovers.
While the film looks like something Will Ferrell would've turned down, don't be fooled. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is actually funny. Yes, Steve Carell's titular character is a glorious prick through most of the film (something completely new for the actor), but, unlike the typical Ferrell character, eventually finds redemption, and nothing in the film feels forced or too over-the-top. The performances by Carell and Jim Carrey are nothing short of amazing, keeping up their brilliant chemistry together they started about 10 years prior with Bruce Almighty. Perhaps it's not the stunning comedy last month's Identity Thief was, but Wonderstone is still incredible.
FINAL VERDICT: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone may not be the best comedy out there, but provides a brilliant satire that, unlike last year's The Campaign, is respectful and funny. Steve Carell and Jim Carrey are hilarious together as the dueling performers, and the comedy comes naturally without added gross-out humor or curse words, making it organic as magic itself.