Movie Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (**1/2)

Movie Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (**1/2)


Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 100 mins.

Premise: Las Vegas magician duo Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton (Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi) find their increasingly outdated act, and tenuous friendship, threatened by a new, risk-taking performance artist named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey).

Behind-the-Scenes: Screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley also wrote the 2011 hit Horrible Bosses.  Daley used to star as Sam Weir on Freaks & Geeks.  Carell and Carrey were previously at odds on screen in 2003's Bruce Almighty and 2008's Horton Hears a Who.

The Good: The glitz and utter ridiculousness of the world of Las Vegas magicians is novel subject matter for the screen, and in spurts here, proves to be fertile ground for comedy.  Jim Carrey, who has been M.I.A. from non-family comedies for the past decade, shows he hasn't lost any of his comic mojo.  He has a handful of choice moments here that are laugh-out-loud funny.  When he's on screen (which unfortunately isn't much), the movie clicks.  Olivia Wilde is a welcome presence even though she isn't given a ton to do, and can hold her own against heavyweights like Carell, Buscemi, and Carell.  It ends on a high note, saving perhaps its best gag for laugh: a wickedly funny depiction of how Burt and Anton were able to pull off their climactic trick.

The Bad:  Carell is uncharacteristically lackluster here.  He plays Burt in the most predictable and least interesting manner possible.  Burt is an egotistic jerk for much of the movie, and Carell doesn't find the levels of boorishness in the character that are needed to make him actually funny.  I hate to say it, mostly because it's the most unimaginative casting choice ever, but Will Ferrell would have been perfect to play Burt, and Carell would have been better in the sidekick role of Anton (though Buscemi proves just fine).  When Burt and Anton lose their hotel gig, the whole middle half of the movie drags, as Burt tries to rekindle his passion for magic while entertaining at senior homes and kids' birthday parties.  Some of the bigger setpieces fall flat due to cluttered directing choices of Don Scardino (30 Rock), particularly the sequence where Burt and Anton trap themselves in a glass box high above the city.  The script and jokes are the very definition of hit and miss.

Should You See It?:  Certainly not on the big screen.  Maybe when it hits VOD or Blu-Ray, and you're sitting on the couch jonesin' for a dumb comedy.

Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars.

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