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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone


Abracadaverage!

Rod Lott June 25th, 2013

There’s nothing wrong per se with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. It just desperately lacks the edge you know it had to have at some early stage, but lost somewhere in all the tinkering to tailor it to a widest-possible audience. Enough hints of it remain to make the movie worth a watch — perfectly agreeable, if perfectly forgettable.

burtwonderstone

Its joke is that Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell, Hope Springs) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi, TV’s Boardwalk Empire) are improbably coiffed stage magicians in Vegas à la Siegfried & Roy, but without the tigers. As glitzy and showy as they are painfully unhip, the two friends have been working together for 30 years, but a wedge is driven between them with the sudden on-the-scene arrival of “street magician” Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, Mr. Popper’s Penguins).

An obvious poke at Criss Angel and David Blaine, Gray bills himself as the Brain Rapist and specializes in human-pincushion tricks that put his body at risk for the delight of audiences. Wonderstone and Marvelton’s old-school illusions can’t compete, and their attendance suffers.

Carrey brings a great deal of his once-white-hot clownery to the show, but he’s merely a supporting player. The bulk of the film follows the egotistical Burt post-split as he Learns Lessons and Finds His Heart, via wise words provided by his magic mentor (Alan Arkin, Argo).

That’s not what people want from a Carell vehicle, especially from one whose comedic deck is stacked so high. The finale recaptures a tad of Wonderstone’s initial mischief — too little, too late. It’s nice to see Buscemi get to exercise his comic chops, and it’s nice to see Olivia Wilde (The Change-Up) — in anything, really. We also have one of the final appearances of the late, great James Gandolfini (TV’s The Sopranos), as a fatuous Vegas hotelier.

As director, Don Scardino is a career TV veteran, including 30 Rock; Wonderstone represents his first shot at the big screen, and predictably, he approaches it like he does the small one. The script is by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the team behind 2011’s hilarious Horrible Bosses, whose nasty streak this effort could use. I suspect it once was there. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Argo Blu-ray review       
Hope Springs Blu-ray review      
Horrible Bosses Blu-ray review    
Mr. Popper’s Penguins Blu-ray review     
30 Rock: Season 3 DVD review   



 
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