The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been the headlining magic act at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas for the last 10 years. Childhood friends that have amazed audiences their whole lives, Burt and Anton are surprised to discover their crowds getting smaller. A new brand of magician has come onto the scene, performing strange stunts and shocking audiences. Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) is the tattooed bad boy of magic who hasn’t gone unnoticed by casino owners.
Will Wonderstone and Marvelton be able to change their outdated act to compete with a new style of magic? Will they be able to recapture some wonder by enlisting the help of an old master and inspiration Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin?) Will any of it be funny?
We say, “It could have been a lot better.”
TAYLOR: Sometimes when you walk out of a movie, all filing out together, you hear comments, perhaps a husband speaks to a wife, “That was terrible.” Maybe, “It was stupid.” “Yeah stupid, but OK.” Sometimes I agree with what I hear, sometimes not. Today Mr. Howe and I went to a comedy, with A-list actors, where I don’t believe I heard anyone laugh out loud. I chuckled quietly to myself a few times, but the fact of the matter is, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, for all its strengths, fails due to lack of imagination.
HOWE: I don’t know if I agree with you 100 per cent on that. There were a few funny moments, yes they were silly but they made me laugh. For example Carrey’s character at the end of the movie for his final act, he went back to his basics, pulling the daft faces that we love.
TAYLOR: There are a few funny moments, but the story itself is a cliché driven, character flaw case study, formulaic and tired. Carell’s Wonderstone is the shallow jerk, Buscemi’s Marvelton is the bullied sycophant, even the marvellous Alan Arkin is reduced to the grumpy retiree. The only exception in this film is Jim Carrey, although his character is a copy of Wonderstone, his portrayal was more interesting to watch. Buscemi and Carell are just being, Carrey is doing, but it’s not enough to save the film. At least the film is tasteful.
HOWE: I’m not a huge fan of Carell’s, I’m not a fan of The Office (the American version anyway) and I don’t get the fact that he is meant to be funny as playing the lead guy in a comedy. He seems to be one of those actors that is better suited to playing the quirky guy like in Dan in Real Life or Brick out of Anchorman.
TAYLOR: Carell is fine, he can do different types of characters, ordinary quiet guys to blathering idiots. He’s been the lead in a lot of films. Maybe you didn’t buy him as the jerk, but I think that comes back to his character in this film, which means it’s a fault of the writers. (It took four guys to write this movie, when it could have spawned from a textbook algorithm. )
— Howe gives The Incredible Burt Wonderstone 2.5 magic salt shakers out of 5.
— Taylor gives it 2 broken ankles out of 5.
The film is currently showing at Vernon’s Galaxy Cinemas.
Brian Taylor and Peter Howe review films for The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.