"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" -- movie review
Release date: March 15, 2013
Directed by: Don Scardino
Written by: Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley
The sheer magnitude of getting Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell on screen as dueling magicians would seem to be a magical pairing destined for comedy gold. "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" brings them together for their second big screen outing -- "Bruce Almighty" being the first -- and unfortunately, while there are some extremely funny moments, there is a lot more hocus than the movie has focus.
When "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" begins, we meet little Albert as as a child. He seems like a good enough kid, but the other kids don't think so. He gets bullied, picked on and teased. On his birthday he gets a present that will change his life -- a magic kit. Since everyone loves a magician, little Albert makes a pledge, along with his best friend, to become the greatest magical act the world has ever known. And thus, the Incredible Burt and Anton are born.
Fate takes Burt and Anton (played as adults by Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi, respectively to Las Vegas, where they become the headlining act at Bally's for years -- and yes, Burt does become (at least one of) the greatest magicians. But their act is fading fast and getting old mostly because Burt never changes things up. They rely on outdated music and the same tricks and banter that made them famous. When a brash new magician, played by Jim Carrey, threatens Anton and Burt's friendship, as well as their place in prestigious, magical Las Vegas, Burt must figure out how to re-establish a new image and cement his legacy as a magical genius.
As usual, Steve Carell and Jim Carrey give solid performances -- but that's it. They have some funny moments but it's never as great as the premise leads you to believe it ever could have been. Steve Carell is at his best when he is playing the vulnerable everyman. What worked best on "The Office" was Carell's uncanny ability to go from a selfish and obnoxious ass to a sentimental sap the next. Even in Burt Wonderstone's worst moments, we never see that moment where he breaks character and becomes the innocent victim who was bullied as a child. This movie is clearly meant to be Carell's "character movie", much like Ron Burgundy for Will Ferrell, Derek Zoolander for Ben Stiller or even Ace Ventura for Jim Carrey.
Speaking of Carrey, he plays Steve Gray, a magician who relies less on illusion than going to extreme lengths to disturb the audience. He self mutilates himself; he lays on hot coals; he goes days without urinating -- you know, magical stuff like that. Other than that, his character seems like something he'd do for the MTV Movie Awards. Olivia Wilde provides the forced love interest for Burt's character, because if you're going to have a hot woman in a movie, she has to get together with the lead, no matter how implausible or unnecessary it is. Besides looking good on screen though, Wilde does have some funny moments. Buscemi is also good but it's Alan Arkin who comes in and steals a few scenes as the aging magician who is the inspiration for Wonderstone's career.
Directed by Don Scardino, who has an impressive resume directing in television, working on "30 Rock", "Rescue Me" and most recently "Two Broke Girls" and "The Mindy Project", the film just never quite gels. The film begins promising enough but about half-way through plateaus on imagination and unpredictability. The screenplay, with at least four writers credited in some way or another, does a nice job of painting Burt as a man who is king of his domain but clearly crumbles under the pressure of performing multiple times a day and his difficulty of living outside the Vegas bubble. But it's safe and predictable.
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" isn't so much incredible as it is passable. The presence of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell generates a few laughs but there are far more hits than misses. Even with nice performances from the supporting cast, the movie fails live up to its own potential and hype. For a movie that is literally about learning to go beyond expectations to really wow the audience, it's a shame that they didn't apply that same practice to this movie.
P.S. Stay for the credits. Hilarious.
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