So far it’s been All Quiet on the Comedy Front for 2013, with duds like Movie 43 and Identity Thief constituting the only representation the genre has seen so far. With entries like Scary Movie 5, The Big Wedding and possibly Admission (as much as I love Fey and Rudd, nothing in the trailers so far has given me much to get excited about) on the horizon, it’s beginning to look like the year won’t have a bona fide great comedy until The Hangover: Part III comes out in late May. Because of this, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone had the great burden of briefly bringing the genre out of the rut it has been experiencing this year. With the presence of comedy greats Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, and an admirable supporting cast including the likes of Steve Buscemi, James Gandolfini and Alan Arkin, Wonderstone should have by all means been able to do exactly that. Unfortunately, an annoying lead character coupled with a surprisingly low level of actual laughs makes The Incredible Burt Wonderstone nothing more than an occasionally enjoyable yet ultimately forgettable diversion.
When a street magician’s stunt begins to make their show look stale, superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton look to salvage on their act – and their friendship – by staging their own daring stunt.
The plot is unsurprisingly cliche-ridden and predictable, but that’s to be expected from a comedy like this. If anything, the implausibility of most of the magic stunts are more distracting than any weaknesses in the plot, but once again it’s hard to expect much in the way of rationality from a movie as intentionally ridiculous as this.
I’ve loved Steve Carell ever since his early days on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. While half the time he plays ridiculously over the top characters like Burt Wonderstone, it’s the other half of his characters that I really enjoy; the half where he plays an earnest, normal person (Crazy, Stupid, Love, Hope Springs, Dan in Real Life). I still enjoy his funnier roles but it’s the latter that really made me appreciate him as an actor. The frustrating thing about Burt Wonderstone’s character is that it’s as if the writers wanted to have a movie with both versions of Steve Carell, and it just didn’t work for me. For half the movie, Burt is a completely idiotic, pompous ass with essentially no other redeeming characteristics i.e. most of the characters Will Ferrell has ever played. For the other half, he goes through a transition back to the kind of good, magic-loving person he was as a kid , aka the normal, earnest Steve Carell. I ended up enjoying the latter because it felt the most like the Steve Carell I’ve grown to know and love, but the former felt so fake and silly that it was hard for me to accept the transformation at all.
The other two major players are perfectly fine, but still nothing to write home about. Olivia Wilde plays Burt’s friend, assistant and wildly age inappropriate love interest (the two are separated by over 20 years). I can’t exactly sing Wilde’s praises as an actress, but damn it all I still love her in most of the things she does. Sure, I’m a bit biased because she is, in my opinion, an angel sent down from heaven to bless us all with her gorgeousness, but I’m sure you all have someone who’s cinematic indiscretions you will forever forgive on account of divine hotness.
Jim Carrey probably stands alongside Carell among reasons people came to see this movie, and if you belong to that category you’ll probably be pretty happy with the results. While his character is little more than an exaggerated mix of Chris Angel and David Blaine, it’s still nice to see Carrey back from his 5 year break from non-family comedy. Between this and Kick-Ass 2, it’s starting to look like 2013 will be Carrey’s year for scene stealing.
The biggest shame here, however, is how underused the supporting cast is. Buscemi isn’t even present for half the movie and Gandolfini’s character is nothing more than a rich, neglectful casino manage. At least Arkin is at least a breath of fresh air once he finally shows up as he usually is, but he’s still only given a handful of scenes to work with.
This is by far the biggest flaw in the movie; it just isn’t that funny. At best, you’ll probably chuckle a few times at silly gags like Carell attempting to do a two-man magic show by himself, but the majority of the comedy either doesn’t work or isn’t there. Part of the reason for this is that the largest focus of the movie is on Carell’s character, but the writers seem to think that you can make a character funny just by making him a straight-up jackass. There just aren’t that many characters who can make straight-up jackass funny, and Carell just isn’t one of them.
The Verdict: 5.0/10 - Mediocre
+ Olivia Wilde is Aphrodite incarnate
+ Alan Arkin is still a Boss
- Carell’s usually likable personality is covered up by his Pompous Ass character
- The laughs are few and far between
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
The Code is Zeek: 3/5
Fast Film Reviews: 3/5
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 5.0/10