If you are one of the many who did not see “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” on the big screen, you can catch it now on DVD. It probably actually plays a little better on your home screen. Though Steve Carell and Jim Carrey playing rival magicians sounds like the stuff of great comedy, this mildly amusing fluff piece starts off promisingly and provides some fun moments but can’t manage to find any real magic.
Part of the problem is Carrey’s role as in-your-face street performer Steve Gray. He’s not so much Carell’s rival as he is one of many underdeveloped subplots. He’s also not so much a magician as he is a self-mutilating, self-torturing whack job and Carrey plays him with all the weirdness he can muster. The central story starts off great with a bullied little boy finding magic and a best friend then jumps ahead to the two of them headlining at Bally’s in Vegas as The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). Their 30 year friendship is strained due to Burt having become an insufferable pompous jerk. When changing times lose them their top spot, Burt is forced to reassess himself.
You keep hopefully watching for a great redemptive showbiz comedy only to be frustrated by a bunch of underdeveloped and mostly silly ideas struggling to form a narrative. Even Carell’s performance in the title role is frustrating. Instead of honestly playing Burt’s ugly side, he gives us phony exaggeration with a stagy voice that sounds like “Despicable Me’s” Gru without the accent. Buscemi, on the other hand, wonderfully plays it straight and still gets his laughs plus some sympathy, even though he too is saddled with some goofy material.
The final payoff is not bad and there is an absurdly funny behind the magic look at how they pull off their greatest illusion as the end credits roll. It’s not a total waste of time, but it leaves you bummed about the movie it might have been.
You can find it at your Roanoke Valley Public Libraries.