What Zoolander did for models, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone attempts, and fails, to do for magicians.
By Jen Heiser
From the writing team that brought you Horrible Bosses comes a comedy centered around Las Vegas magician Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell). Wonderstone and his partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are using dying magic tricks in a new age of illusions. Challenged to up the ante by their boss Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) after seeing street performances by illusionist and endurance artist Steve Grey (Jim Carrey), Marvelton breaks off ties with Wonderstone after he refuses to introduce new tricks to the act. Wonderstone has to remember what was so awe-inspiring about magic and change his ways to get back on top.
Carell immerses himself as the gaudy Vegas magician from head to toe. The problem is believing how delusional he is. What magician wouldn’t challenge himself and change his act? You would never see someone like David Copperfield (who makes a cameo) do the same act, word for word, trick by trick. Unfortunately, many scenes have Carell acting like a man-boy. Doesn’t really give credence to the thought that he’s a bit of a playboy.
Buscemi is a perfect partner for Carell. The pair play off each other well. His character grounds the movie in some reality. Wilde is a lesser version of Matilda Jeffries, Christine Taylor’s character in Zoolander. While Wilde is committed to playing Jane to the fullest, the problem is believing Jane can be a magician like Wonderstone. When she does finally show her tricks, they are so rudimentary. It’s like watching a street con play suckers on the street with three-card monte.
Carrey embodies illusionist Steve Grey perfectly. He’s basically playing a mash-up of Criss Angel and David Blaine. The issue with his scenes are that they are outlandish and disgusting. Is it funny to watch him use his head as a hammer? The film relies too heavily on gross-out cringe humor rather than genuine funny moments. I love John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks, Bones) but I wish he would stick to acting. Unfortunately he’s teaming up with his writing partner Jonathan M. Goldstein for four more features, including two sequels (Horrible Bosses 2 and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2). Please stop.
I do love Alan Arkin and Wonderstone reunites him with Carell for the third time (Little Miss Sunshine and Get Smart). The two obviously love working together and it works. I could watch an instructional magic how-to video of the duo and be thoroughly entertained. Sadly, there’s just not enough time in the story to explore this relationship.
Too many subplots muddle the A-plot and the writing relies on what-the-fuck moments rather than wit. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone attempts to accomplish a never before seen feat; but, like the subject matter, it’s all smoke and mirrors to distract from this illusion of a film.