The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
THE most incredible thing about Burt Wonderstone is just how unfunny this magician comedy really is.
For while director Don Scardino may have pulled off his own neat trick by attracting such a first-rate cast (headed by Steve Carell and including Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin, Jim Carrey and James Gandolfini), the anticipated quality is just an illusion.
Rather, Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley’s screenplay is light on laughs and quite often repetitive and laboured. And there’s an uneasy mix of family friendly comedy and edgy, more risqué material.
The story follows the fortunes of childhood friends turned Las Vegas magicians Burt (Carell) and Anton (Buscemi) as they come to take their success for granted and find their popularity overtaken by the extreme magic of street magician Steve Gray (Carrey), whose ‘tricks’ include holding his own urine for days and sleeping on hot coals.
When they fall out after an attempt to get back on top fails, Burt and Anton go their separate ways, during which Burt is forced into the inevitable soul-searching and rediscovers his love for his craft thanks to the presence of childhood inspiration Rance Holloway (Arkin) and plucky former assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde).
The stage is then set for Burt to reunite with Anton and reclaim their position as Vegas’s number one act in a winner takes all showdown against Steve.
The ensuing film is as generic and predictable as this sounds but could have been redeemed if the quality of the jokes had been better.
Instead, the relative dearth of laughs only exposes the lazy plotting and, worse, gives none of the cast anything to work with, while failing to properly make the most of the opportunities posed by the world of magic and the elaborate stunts of modern magicians.
Carell’s usual Midas touch with comedy deserts him, Carrey overdoes the crazy, Buscemi overdoes the cute and Gandolfini over-cooks the unscrupulous boss shtick. Only Arkin really has the measure of the material and is wily enough to rise above it but he’s not around long enough. And Wilde is thoroughly wasted as the obligatory love interest.
A final gag revolving around an audience disappearing does bring some belated mirth but by then, ironically, most of the film’s own audience may well have disappeared.
Running time: 100mins
UK Release Date: March 15, 2013
- Read our review
- Jim Carrey interview
- The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Photo Gallery
- Watch the trailer