The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Don Scaradino breaks free from his work on TV to bring us his first feature film. He’s assembled a stellar line-up too with Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey all headlining. But will the film prove to be an elaborate illusion or could it be magic?
Albert is a shy and awkward kid, who suffers torment at the hands of neighbourhood bullies and an absent mother. His life takes a dramatic turn for the better when on his 10 birthday he is given a Rance Holloway magic kit and discovers the world of illusion. Practising his magic at school he draws the attention of fellow victim Anthony, another awkward kid with allergies to pretty much everything. The pair become fast friends and magical partners and are soon on their way to bigger and better things. 30 years later the rebranded Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton are the kings of Las Vegas with a nightly stage-show at a top casino. Everything appears rosy for the pair until a dark shadow in the shape of street magician Steve Grey clouds the horizon…
Steve Carrell’s Burt Wonderstone is a variation on the Carrell that we’ve come to know and now be slightly bored of. As an actor he doesn’t seem to be stretching himself here, descending from an interesting self-centred and snarky ego-maniac into the soft, kind-hearted, and predictable loon we’ve seen so often before. That first 30 minutes where he plays against type has easily his funniest lines and his interplay with Buscemi and Carrey at this stage sets a tone for a much better film. Buscemi is great but limited as the sidekick, nailing the completely awkward adult magician who never evolved beyond playing magic tricks with his friend. Jim Carrey is under utilised as the Criss Angel-alike Steve Grey. This persona is ripe for parody but Carrey’s reduced to physical comedy and quips. His schtick is funny but again there’s more to be had here. Alan Arkin plays a gruff loveable old magician as only gruff loveable old Alan Arkin can, while Olivia Wilde is strong as the female lead in a mostly all-boys show.
That the film isn’t more than the sum of its parts is down mostly to the script, rather than the direction of Scardino. His TV work proves that he knows comedy and the film is technically very well put together. The film starts very strongly but is reduced to a predictable bro-rom-com once the obligatory fall from grace happens. Predictability is no bad thing in a comedy as long as the jokes are there to match and for the most part the film keeps the audience at least chuckling up to its conclusion. Composer Lyle Workman lives up to his name with an obvious score, particularly in the opening scene’s minor-key overture.
If I come across as harsh on the film I don’t mean to be. It’s a good comedy with a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. It just never lives up to it’s potential and we could’ve been looking at something special. As it is, it is a perfectly fine little comedy with a big heart and a healthy dose of laughs. Just don’t expect magic.