For many people, magic is a way to escape the world, boggle the mind — make the impossible seem possible. In Las Vegas, the world of professional magic is a dog-eat-dog, cutthroat industry that shows capitalism at its finest (c’mon, somebody’s got to profit from the joy of children).
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
At Quality 16 and Rave
New Line Cinema
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” has a cast featuring some major players in the world of comedic film, but isn’t able to capitalize on the wealth of talent. Instead, the jokes are stale, the story is uninspired and “Burt Wonderstone” firmly establishes itself as a film that will soon fade from audiences’ memories.
The film tells the story of Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) as he falls in love with magic, becomes the most popular magician performing on the Vegas strip, falls from grace and must prove himself by recapturing his passion and popularity amid adversity found in the likes of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), a street magician whose unorthodox style has taken the media by storm.
The role allows Carell to show off his asshole side. Though it has certainly been shown before (his role as Evan in “Bruce Almighty” being the most memorable example), this character is a far cry from the likeable chump-type Carell has played so well in films such as “Anchorman,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Dinner for Schmucks.” Between his objectifying of women, disregard for friendship and general rudeness with which he treats people, it’s a wonder that his one-time assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde, “Tron: Legacy”), would be so willing to aid Burt in his attempt to reclaim the Vegas stage.
Jim Carrey is funny and creepy as David Blaine/Criss Angel-type magician Steve Gray. His over-the-top tricks, which include cutting open his own face in an elaborate card gag as well as drilling a hole into his head, satirize this style of magic cleverly, but Carrey is still able to make the character his own — his signature ridiculousness on full display.
Where the film lacks is where it’s supposed to thrive — comedy. Aside from Carrey, who should’ve had more screen time, “Burt Wonderstone” doesn’t create the laughter that its cast certainly had the potential to fulfill. The majority of Carell’s punchlines fall flat (though a magical bedroom scene with Olivia Wilde is very well done), as do those of Steve Buscemi (“Big Daddy”) and James Gandolfini (TV’s “The Sopranos”), whose jokes become repetitive early on.
Gandolfini’s bit about not being able to remember his son’s age is perhaps funny the first time, but it’s drawn out too long. It could be a nice aside, but it has been done too much before to serve as the primary source of comedy for any character.
Even Alan Arkin (“Argo”), though he brings heart to the story and is always a delight to watch, doesn’t add much substance to the film as Rance Holloway, Wonderstone’s childhood idol.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is cute above all else. It isn’t the laugh riot that it could have been, but it’s an overall enjoyable film and has a few moments that successfully tap into the vast comedic capability of its cast. Perhaps “The Mildly Entertaining Burt Wonderstone” would’ve been a more appropriate title.