‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ is a relatively fun foray into ridiculousness. Although its pacing is significantly slower than might have been expected in a Steve Carell-Jim Carrey outing, the film still hits some of the right notes with a few big hearty laughs and crescendos in a totally absurd, but humorous, ending.
Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are childhood-friends, nerds-turned-cheesily-glamorous, as the big-haired, velvet-ensconced, magic-making duo who have headlined at Bally’s Las Vegas to sold-out crowds for over 10 years. Wonderstone has become so seduced by the power of his own stage persona, that he is easily able to pick out each night’s female paramour from the audience, then, loves and leaves her with just a chintzy souvenir the next morning. The Wonderstone-Marvelton act, though, is becoming stale, and its viability is challenged even further by a new street magician (in the vein of a totally screwy, masochistic David Blaine-Criss Angel mashup) named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). Gray’s self-harming street magic (e.g, holding his urine for days) becomes what is en vogue in Vegas, and Wonderstone and Marvelton lose their audience, ultimately disintegrating both their off-stage friendship and on-stage union.
Without any savings, Wonderstone’s career hits rock bottom, and he finds himself working at a Vegas retirement home where he unexpectedly comes across his faded-into-obscurity childhood magician hero, Rance Holloway (the always fabulous Alan Arkin). Holloway and Wonderstone’s former assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde), inspire the fallen-from-fame Wonderstone to attempt to regain his ‘magical friendship’ and his place in the Vegas sun.
Halfway-worth the price of admission, alone, are Wonderstone and Marvelton’s coifs, spray-tanned skin, too-bright teeth, and elaborate costumes. As per several of his other more dramatic roles, Carell can be an actor of some depth, however in ‘Burt Wonderstone’ his character’s transformation (from totally self-obsessed to slightly considerate of others) is, truly, relatively minimal. Carrey is on full-tilt crazy throughout the film, and only really works off one motivation: to egg on Wonderstone. Only sorely underused Arkin, whose eyes sparkle with his character’s love of magic, really brings a degree of emotional connectedness to the audience.
What makes the film worth watching, and a notch above other recent comedies, is its few sheer moments of absurdity (for example, unexpected, random levitation). The movie would have brimmed with much more excitement and comedic sense had it dug deeper into the vast skill sets of its comedic cast and pulled out more unbridled nuttiness, rather than just giving the audience repeated glimmers of giggles with several play-it-safe scenes. Finally, nonetheless, there is an absurdist, and well deserved, audience payoff with the flick’s ultimate revelation on how the duo’s biggest trick is performed. ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ is rated 3 of 5 stars for slow pacing with some great, sporadic jokes (‘mildly recommended’).
In all, ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ is a lightweight affair, and a fairly pleasant way to spend the evening, although its magic may evaporate soon after you leave the theater. The movie is rated PG-13 for ‘sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.’
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