The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Directed by: Don Scardino
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve
Buscemi, Jim Carrey & Olivia Wilde
Burt is a lonely, bullied kid who finds his place in the world through a magic set and with the help of his new best friend and assistant Anton.
Three decades down the road, the boys - Burt Wondersome (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) - are the stars of a Las Vegas magic show that’s fraying around the edges. The tricks are old, the suits and hair are a David Copperfield nightmare and Burt is less interested in revamping the act than he is in which groupie gets to spend the night in LA’s biggest bed.
Worse still, there’s a new kid in town and he’s attracting way too much attention. Street magician Steve Gray (Carrey) is a cross between David Blaine and the entire crew of Jackass, a man whose stunts include drill bits in the head and sleeping on hot coals.
His videos are viral, his TV show Brain Rapist is through the roof and now he’s about to take the bread out of Burt Wondersome’s mouth.
When casino boss Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) gives the boys the boot, Burt and Anton go their separate ways and Burt winds up scraping a living pulling off his tricks in supermarkets and nursing homes - where ultimately he happens across his childhood hero, legendary magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).
And there may be redemption for the washed-up Vegas magic man, but only if he rediscovers that old boyhood wonder. Or some such silly nonsense.
There are laughs to had in The Incredible Burt Wondersome, most of them courtesy of Jim Carrey, who’s in wonderfully manic form as the insanely masochistic Gray.
But when Carrey is not on screen - and after Steve Buscemi disappears for half the movie - it’s all a bit shallow and desperate.
The big problem is Burt himself, a character so deeply obnoxious that not even Steve Carell can make him likeable. It’s as if the writers - half a dozen of them, never a good sign - couldn’t decide between light or dark comedy, and ended up with a character who fits neither.
All the same, there’s a woman who sees the man he can be, and Olivia Wilde does what she can in that throwaway role. Likewise Steve Buscemi before his vanishing act, and Alan Arkin who, as ever, makes the most of his little time.
Overall, a missed opportunity for what could have been a fine comedy.