Though the topic is prestidigitation, there is absolutely no magic to The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a lifeless, dopey, soul-crushing exercise in modern “comedy.” Though I should have known better, I still found the complete failure of this movie surprising. The practitioners of illusion both big and small have been ripe for parody for years. Is there a more insular bunch than professional magicians, all jealously guarding their tricks and fighting with each other about who stole what technique? It’s great source material, yet director Don Scardino and star Steve Carell completely miss the mark, leaving Burt Wonderstone the worst movie I’ve seen this year.
Carell stars as the titular Burt Wonderstone, who with his partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) has been wowing Vegas audiences for a decade with their traditional high-gloss magic show. But times change, and a new act, a street magician named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), has come along to challenge their dominance. Gray is from the Chris Angel/David Blaine school of magic, except most of his “tricks” are simply feats of personal endurance. (Personal favorite: He doesn’t take a piss for 12 days. Yawning yet?)
Wonderstone and Marvelton, along with their latest comely assistant (Olivia Wilde), attempt to change with the times, which in this case involves suspending the magicians over the Vegas strip for a week in a plexiglass container called “The Hot Box.” The stunt lasts about 20 minutes before Wonderstone goes nuts and wrecks the whole thing, causing a rift between him and lifelong friend Anton.
Wonderstone’s life enters a swift downward spiral, and soon he’s performing at a nursing home, where he has a chance meeting with his childhood idol, Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), a Harry Blackstone clone who grudgingly helps him rediscover the joy of magic. Reunited with Anton and now treating Wilde’s suffering assistant with some respect, the trio compete against Steve Gray for a gig at a flashy new hotel.
There is nothing original about Burt Wonderstone, nor is there much (intentional) comedy. The movie makes several deadly miscalculations, starting with the treatment of the Wonderstone character. Save a cute prologue featuring kid-Burt, Wonderstone is a complete asshole through the first two-thirds of the movie. Carell plays him as a parody of Siegfried or Roy (you tell me which one), but it just doesn’t work. The performance is in no way consistent, with Carell picking up and shedding personality traits and his accent seemingly at will.
Carell is at his comedic best when he’s an oddball supporting player (Anchorman) or severely, endearingly out of touch (The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Office). He’s not mean or hateful. Even his Michael Scott character on The Office isn’t a bad guy, he’s just horrifically ignorant. Carell misfires badly here.
The rest of the cast doesn’t do much better. Jim Carrey is amusing for about five minutes as Steve Gray but quickly becomes tiresome. Buscemi seems game but never gets to do anything interesting. Wilde is fetching as always, and gets some early laughs, but ends up stuck playing the same old female supporting character who must fall in love with the lead dude, no matter how unlikely that is. Arkin is wasted, and James Gandolfini ably illustrates why he should stick to dramas.
So skip Burt Wonderstone, lest you start wishing someone would make you disappear. Seriously, this shit made me long for Identity Thief — which is quite a trick in its own right.
After seeing the "new Superman" I thought it was alright but, I kind of hoped…
Gerwig is so awesome all-around. Would love to give her hugs and be friends. :)
Check out the lead on the Drudge Report!
Cant wait to watch it!