Film Review: THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (directed by Dan Scardino)

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by Kevin Bowen on March 15, 2013

in Film

WHERE’S THE MAGIC?

Whatever positives and negatives lay within The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – the latest Steve Carell mass-market comedy – all I could do was wonder what happened to Steve Buscemi and the Coen Brothers.

At one time Buscemi was arguably the foremost actor associated with the reticent Minnesota siblings, playing roles in all five of their features in the 1990s. Then it suddenly stopped. Why? Obviously there wouldn’t appear to be a rift, a falling out, as he starred in their segment of Paris, Je t’aime. They just suddenly quit. Was it money? A desire to try new things?  That question – why do some actors and filmmakers work together intensely and then never work together again? –  is quite intriguing and rarely answered.

The greatest benefit of such creative breakups is keeping things from going stale (unless you’re Led Zeppelin – and it didn’t work very well for any of them). The Incredible Burt Wonderstone runs on the fumes of collaborations that have gone Kevin Bowen's Stage and Cinema review of THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONEstale. A childhood magic set leads two elementary school dorks to become The Incredible Burt and Anton, a headlining Vegas magic act drowning in sequins and passive-aggressiveness. They suddenly find a rival in a tattooed, masochistic street magician with a cable show, prone to “magic” tricks such as laying all night on a bed of burning coals.

Outside of Buscemi, Wonderstone stars a few performers who could use a hit. The film marks the first time in a while that a Carell mass-market comedy isn’t being released in summer. Olivia Wilde – the eye candy playing the eye candy – hasn’t lived up to hype. And Jim Carrey, thank God, goes back to his comedy roots following failures like The Number 23 and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Of those guys the best is Carrey – flat-out great as nightmare magician Steve Gray – a classic case of a performer returning to the sort of role that made him a star and relishing going home again.

The film as a whole? Well, you have to accept that this sort of thing has a mid-grade ceiling. Within that context, it’s on the high side of the median for Carell comedies: Not bad but nothing special (certainly better than Evan Almighty, that Noah’s Ark thing). John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s script smacks of cheesy sit-com, but I felt more insulted by the forgettable premise than the minimally funny comedy (better than their Horrible Bosses disaster). Like most magic tricks, it amuses you for a second and then pulls a disappearing act from your memory.

photos by New Line Cinema

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
New Line Cinema
rated PG-13
in wide release March 15, 2013

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