Not since Bruce Almighty have Steve Carell and Jim Carrey shared the screen. In the Incredible Burt Wonderstone they reunite and parody the entertainment magic community that has been a staple of Las Vegas for decades. In concept, this idea was tailor-made for Carrey and even Carell, to a lesser extent.
But why then is there no magic to Burt Wonderstone?
The movie follows Burt and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) from their nerdy childhood learning magic and follows them through their illustrious careers where they’ve headlined the stage at Bally’s casino for over a decade. Burt has let the fame go to his head and manages to destroy his career and his friendship with Anton in a matter of days. Enter Steve Gray, a combination of Criss Angel and David Blaine. He ushers in a new age of magic as he performs acts of street magic that usually consist of how much pain he can tolerate. The casino owner (James Gandolfini) and Burt’s boss wants to cash in on the next big trend in magic and gets rid of Burt.
Burt goes on to perform at Big Lots and nursing homes, where he meets his childhood idol, played by Alan Arkin. It’s apparently there, where Burt Wonderstone decides it’s time to be a likable character and seeks to get his career back on track and his best friend by his side once again.
With subject matter that is so rife with possibilities for humor, why doesn’t Burt Wonderstone work? I think it comes down to bad writing, bad pacing and Steve Carell’s bad comic timing. Sadly, the jokes just aren’t that funny. Steve Carell could have been replaced by Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller or Adam Sandler and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The entire experience felt like a movie that was made in the 90’s. It’s passable humor that I would have loved as a 14 year old. But thankfully my tastes have grown. Don’t get me wrong. I did laugh a handful of times, but it was to the more subtle jokes spliced in randomly.
There were several people laughing their guts out in my screening and I found myself getting jealous. Why couldn’t I be watching the same slapstick comedy they were viewing?
The pacing was terrible. There was a span of 45 minutes where there wasn’t a laugh to be had. It felt like the movie had turned into an indie dark comedy, where we have to watch unlikable characters bicker back and forth and occasionally the movie rewards us with a smile-worthy moment.
Steve Carell is the weak link. He is a womanizing has-been who never convincingly redeems himself. It felt like he was sleepwalking through the role. Everything just seemed too practiced and there was very little spontaneity or improv from him.
Jim Carrey, on the other hand, fares far better as the Criss Angel wannabe. Yes, he is obviously playing himself playing Criss Angel, but even with his limited time on screen, he steals the movie. I’m starting to think Carrey works best in small doses.
I’m sorry to say this, but I’d rather sit through a Evan/Bruce Almighty crossover movie (ala The Avengers) than sit through the not so Incredible Burt Wonderstone again. This movie is worth a dollar rental, but you should avoid seeing it in the theater.
The tagline of the Incredible Burt Wonderstone should be, “Now you see me! Now you don’t care!”