The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. (2013). Run time: 100 mins. MPAA: PG-13 (for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug related incident and language. Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, and Jim Carrey. Written by Jonathon M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley. Directed by Don Scardino.
What happens when you gather together the likes of Steve Carell, one of the funniest actors in Hollywood; Steve Buscemi, a very funny guy who tends to have a great supporting presence with actors like Adam Sandler; Alan Arkin, the Academy Award nominee from last year’s Argo; James Gandolfini, another great supporting actor who was in last year’s Killing Them Softly and the Academy Award nominated Zero Dark Thirty; Olivia Wilde, one of the sexiest actresses out there; and Jim Carrey, probably my all time favorite comedic actor? Unfortunately, not as much as I’d hoped for.
So begins the joys of watching The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a title taken directly out of the Will Farrell guide book. (Compare with The Legend of Ron Burgandy, which is a fantastic movie, by the way). The plot goes a little something like this. Two magicians (Carell and Buscemi) who have been friends ever since young boys are now older and a leading magic act in Vegas. Then a new talent arises on the Streets in the form of a street magician (Carrey) who eerily resembles Criss Angel, even to the point of his show being called Brainraped, as opposed to Mindfreak. Through various circumstances the two friends are separated and they must rediscover their muse to win back their fans. Now from a personal standpoint, this is the movie for me. I love comedies. I love the entire cast, especially Carell and Carrey. And as I was growing up, magic was my life. I knew every card trick, I could do illusions, and some of my favorite movies are magic related (Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige for example). So when I walked into the theater today, I had some expectations, but I didn’t hold it up to any bar or standard. I don’t like to do that to actors or their films. But in this case I just couldn’t help it. This movie is simply not good. But it’s not bad either, as I will further explain.
Let’s kick things off with the cast, which consists of so much talent. First off we have Steve Carell in the leading role of Burt Wonderstone. I absolutely love him. Not in this movie, which I will explain, but as an actor in general. I loved him in The 40-Year Old Virgin, and from then on he has been hysterical in many movies, some of which include Anchorman, Date Night, Dinner for Schmucks, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Here he arrives in probably the ugliest costume and hair wig imaginable, which may have been what brought down his performance for me, and he is in full jerk form. This is the fault of the screenwriters, but Steve Carell’s character is simply a jerk, and I understand that it is part of the story and his character, but honestly, he is a jerk to everyone for the first two thirds of the movie, and then they expect us to start to care for him by the time the third act rolls around because he had a change? I didn’t buy it. Pair that with the former comment on the costume design, which is so bad by the way. I love you Carell, but man, pick a better script. Along with Carell is the outstanding Steve Buscemi, and once again I’m not saying he is outstanding in this movie, but in general. I love that guy. He’s been in the background of so many classic Adam Sandler movies that liking him is almost second nature. Unfortunately, I felt like the idea of Carell having a partner was completely unnecessary because he hardly has any screen time, which leads me to think that the only reason they threw him in was because they wanted Buscemi to play him so they could have two main cast members named Steve. It all feels artificial. Then we have James Gandolfini thrown in there which makes me wonder, “Why?” I love that guy as well. He’s awesome. He was great in both of his roles last year, and I have no clue what he was doing in this movie. He just felt unneeded. On a brighter note, Olivia Wilde is in this movie, and when all else fails, just look at her. She is certainly one of the sexiest actresses working today. Finally in terms of the cast, there are two saving graces, one of which gives his best performance in years. The first one is Alan Arkin, fresh off his Oscar nomination for Argo. He’s great here, and he provides a lot of laughs, but he also made me wonder, “Why?” What is such talent doing in such a movie? I don’t know. But the show stealer of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is without a doubt Jim Carrey, giving his best performance in years. This guy hasn’t lost it a bit. I grew up watching Carrey’s films as a teenager, everything from Dumb and Dumber to Bruce Almighty, and to see him back in full form is refreshing. Granted, he doesn’t look like himself, but beneath it all he is the same Jim Carrey he once was. He’s a nut, and he is sure to have you busting a gut.
Unfortunately, there is nothing really to talk about in terms of direction, save some cool magic tricks that seem to have been directed smoothly, but the final thing I want to briefly discuss is the script. This is where the majority of the problems lie. It just isn’t consistent. It has lame jokes, lazy storytelling, poor dialogue, and just an unfortunate supply for such talented actors. Sometimes the movie felt slow, other times it was funny, and I just didn’t relate with it.
FINAL VERDICT: As negative as this review may sound about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, I still feel like there is fun to be had in this movie. Do I recommend you flock to the theater to see it? No. I say just wait for the rental. But I can say that Jim Carrey and Alan Arkin both make this movie worth seeing, even if everything is crumbling around them. (C)