“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”

Susan Granger’s review of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” (Warner Bros.)


    What’s most incredible about this lame comedy is how shallow and inept it seems, given the inherent talent.

    Superstar Las Vegas illusionists Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been friends since childhood when, as nerdy outcasts, they bonded over their love of magic. As partners, they reached the pinnacle of their profession but now their act is getting stale. Cable TV entertainers like gritty “brain rapist” Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), who specializes in gruesome, dangerous, endurance stunts, are siphoning off their audience. (Think about provocative tricksters David Blaine and Criss Angel.)  Predictably, Burt and Anton are bored and getting on each other’s nerves. They split and go their separate ways for a while. Smug, arrogant, misogynistic Burt eventually realizes how nasty he’s become, and hapless Anton discovers that, while he’s been graciously entertaining the Third World poor, they’d rather have food and clean water. So Burt and Anton reconcile and plan an astounding, if amoral comeback. Not that anyone cares – much.

    Since the four credited screenwriters, including “Horrible Bosses” Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, have failed to create a cohesive, or even satirical story with empathetic characters, there’s little that Emmy-nominated TV-sitcom director Don Scardino (“30 Rock,” “Law & Order”) can do to rectify that mystifying yet major flaw which confines Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi to caricatures.

    Nevertheless, Olivia Wilde is winsome as Jane, their long-suffering, misunderstood stage assistant; James Gandolfini is gruff and growly as Vegas casino entrepreneur Doug Munny; and Alan Arkin is masterful as Burt’s reclusive idol/mentor, legendary sleight-of-hand magician Rance Holloway.  But it’s uninhibited Jim Carrey who steals the show with his ferocious, unabashed masochism.

    Costume designer Dayne Pink goes overboard with bedazzled velvet and gaudy glitz, evoking memories of Liberace, Elton John, and Siegfried & Roy. And you can glimpse world-famous magic ‘advisor’ David Copperfield in a cameo.

    On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is an absurdist 3, lacking anything resembling amusement and magic -until the final credits involving an extended sight gag.