Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (All Stage Name, No Delivery)

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In the beginning (of the movie) Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrel) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are comfortably perched at the top of the illusionist-food chain. They have a “Magical Friendship” (that’s what they call their show), but when their attendance drops their boss drops them, leaving their spot on the Las Vegas strip open for any vulture to take.

Cue street magician Steve Grey (Jim Carrey impersonating David Blane), a “hot new act” that crosses Super Dave and Supermasochist Bob—he cuts his face open and holds his pee and calls it “MAGIC!” His schtick is unimaginative but on par with Carrel’s character (a cross of David Copperfield and GOB from “Arrested Development”).

Out on his luck, Burt finds the man behind the magic kit that got him started. Now he’s a desiccated old grump unwilling to mess around, even with the magician who previously owned the world’s biggest bed (“can comfortably sleep 12 adults”).

Written by Horrible Bosses scribes Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Wonderstone is the kind of comedy that sinks or swims based on the ability of its cast. Carrel and Buscemi are typically good, but even they can’t elevate this material. Alan Arkin, however, can and does. I have no idea what Olivia Wilde is doing here and Jim Carrey acts as if he’s struggling to resuscitate a dying career. Really, the biggest issue is Carrel, who’s generally brilliant and really commits, but his character too closely resembles Michael Scott (the boss he played on TV’s “The Office”) and so feels like a throwback.

It’s true Carrel was perfect as the lonesome blowhard who loved his own jokes, but as the lonesome magician half-assing his way through his own tricks, Carrel looks too bored to “be that guy” anymore.

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About Sara Vizcarrondo

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Sara Vizcarrondo is a freelance film critic out of San Francisco. She runs Opening Movies at Rottentomatoes, teaches film/media studies at DeAnza college and writes on film for Popdose and The SF Bay Guardian.

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