Movie Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

By Stephen Rebello

<p>Here’s a comedy set in the kitschy, seedy, big-hair-and-bigger-egos world of Vegas Strip magicians, which you would think would make it our type of movie. <br></p>

Director: Don Scardino

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Studio: Benderspink / Carousel

Here’s a comedy set in the kitschy, seedy, big-hair-and-bigger-egos world of Vegas Strip magicians, and we don’t know about you, but visions danced in our heads of something along the lines of, oh, say, Zoolander meets Anchorman. But no.

It’s a movie with absolutely nothing up its sleeve, nothing on its mind and mild chuckles that pretty much do a disappearing act after the first 10 minutes. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, starring and produced by Steve Carell, is pretty much all setup, no delivery. Carell and Steve Buscemi play childhood friends who’ve grown up to be hugely popular working partners. Their decades of sold-out Bally’s magic shows have left them rich, jaded and full of contempt for each other. On stage, the comically bewigged, bejeweled and cheesily overconfident Carell delights adoring fans, but off stage, he’s a self-centered lout who makes groupies sign nondisclosure forms and treats his partner about as well as he treats the animals he uses in his act.

Of course, he’s due for a major, humbling fall, and he gets it in the form of a rival: Jim Carrey as a tattooed, crazy-eyed bad boy street magician who wows crowds by slicing open his cheek or sleeping on a bed of hot coals. Carell and Buscemi’s act starts to look even staler; they’re canned by a hotel mogul played (winningly) by James Gandolfini, they break up the act and Carell connects with the now-elderly legendary magician (played by effortless scene-stealer Alan Arkin) whose videos inspired him as a kid.

Despite the big talent involved, the movie just bumps along from plot point to plot point for 98 long minutes, never finding a tone or pulling out of the hat the manic, satirical laughs one might hope for. Buscemi’s casting makes no sense, since he doesn’t move past his patented dead-eyed, sardonic thing to generate the nervy charisma the role requires. Carell, who ought to be hilariously right on target, seems glum and way off his game. Sadly, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone goes up in a puff of smoke.


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