Like an untalented magician with ineffable charm, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is creaky, awkward, and at times monotonous. But it packs enough whimsical heart and hilarious moments of brilliance to make audiences gaze with wonder.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” follows Burt, a completely egocentric and misguided magician who values 5-star Vegas resorts and casual sex with audience members over awe-inspiring magical illusions. Burt’s partner from childhood, Anton (Steve Buscemi), is still optimistic and good-hearted to deal with Burt’s chauvinistic ways so they can still make a good show. But when Criss Angel wannabe Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) steals the duo’s thunder with shocking displays of physical punishment, Burt and Avon begin to see their fame and friendship crumble. Suddenly, Burt is left alone and has to rediscover what it means to be a true magician and a good person.
But oh wait, there’s also Olivia Wilde as Burt’s abandoned assistant Jane, James Gandolfini as casino hotshot owner Doug Munny and Alan Arkin as Rance Halloway, the magician who inspired Burt’s love for magic in the first place. And they’re great and lovely and hilarious in all the ways Wilde and Arkin and Gandolfini are in their other films, but they disappear and reappear so haphazardly throughout the film you forget they’re part of the show. Burt’s journey from egotistic illusionary asshole to kindhearted magical gentleman takes longer than needed. The audience is happy when Burt fails, and only until halfway through do people realize he can be a decent guy. This film’s hero’s path has been amateurly carved by a beginner magician.
None of the plot issues really matter though, because “Wonderstone” is absolutely hilarious. The showcasing Carrey’s insane physical acts and Carrell’s awkward social graces will make viewers chuckle lightly. But the film’s key laughing points are the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it one liners and offhand comments that are expertly crafted as if they were lifted from Family Guy’s best episode. It’s near impossible to catch them all in one sitting, and without proper attention audiences might mistakenly believe that “Wonderstone” didn’t put on a good show. Keep a dedicated eye, and “Wonderstone’s” comedic tricks will make you nearly laugh out of your seat.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is incredibly lucky to have the talents of Carrell and Carrey, otherwise this picture never would have succeeded. Both represent the height of film comedy from their respective golden eras: Carrey’s wacky physical antics who made him the funniest star of the 1990’s, and Carrell’s patented cringe worthy dumb man performance that made him the staple of NBC Thursday nights and really launched that whole Apatow thing into full swing in the 2000’s. Putting these two in any film, whether it be about Vegas magicians or two regular schmoes waiting for a bus, would undoubtedly be hilarious. Did “Burt Wonderstone” get lucky when casting the Carrell-Carrey combo? Yeah probably, but that doesn’t make it any less magical.