The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the story of two successful magicians, Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, (Carrell and Buscemi) who have ruled the Las Vegas strip for decades. The fame appears to have gotten to the duo, as they have slowly grown to loathe each other. Their friendship, and livelihood, is put to the test even further when a street magician by the name of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) steals their thunder with his death defying tricks; it’s due to him that the boss of the hotel they’re employed by, Doug (James Gandolfini), gives them an ultimatum: either come up with something fresh or they’re fired.
With most of what I have to say being misses, I’m going to start with a positive – Jim Carrey. Without a doubt, Carrey is the saving grace for what would otherwise be comedy completely devoid of any notable humour. His turn as Steve Gray plays up ‘modern’ magicians such as Criss Angel brilliantly, and his tricks are ironically ones that you wouldn’t put past Angel to try. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a large amount of screen time, but each scene he’s in is, and excuse the pun, simply magic.
The same cannot be said for Carrell, who is a little too convincing as a pompous, egotistical jerk in the opening act. When the inevitable change of heart and attitude does come, it’s too late, and it’s far too contrived; I simply didn’t believe that he saw the error of his ways, therefore for the entire film all I saw was an unlikable main character. Buscemi, as talented as he is, appears horribly miscast and is, to me, visibly uncomfortable and awkward in the role of Burt’s sidekick. And I know it shouldn’t matter, but for the sake of continuity Buscemi appears too… old. The only reason I say this is the two magicians were friends as kids, being a similar age, but as adults Anton is noticeably older than Wonderstone. It’s not necessarily a criticism, just something that bugged me a little. Alan Arkin lends his sleight of hand as Rance Holloway, the magician who got the two young boys interested in magic. Whilst his character is stock (but to be honest, every one of them are) he does the best with what he’s given, and brings more to the small role than it deserved. Olivia Wilde is the token love interest, without actually providing either of those things.
As for the narrative – it doesn’t get more recycled than this. There were at least five occasions where I knew what was going to said next, or knew where the story was headed. A line stuck out for me, said by James Gandolfini’s ‘boss’ character – “new equals value”. Well screenwriters Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley didn’t take their own advice, because Burt Wonderstone is one of the most unoriginal cinematic comedies in recent memory. It’s also guilty of what many comedies do nowadays: include all the ‘big’ jokes in the trailer. Because of this, I simply found myself smiling just because I remembered laughing at it the first time I saw it in the preview. As for magic, there’s only one trick from Wonderstone and Marvelton that’s worth mentioning, and that’s their ‘big finale’. Theoretically, it’s impressive, but the film breaks the number one magicians rule: never reveal how the trick is done.
By this point though, it’d be unsurprising if the audience themselves haven’t performed the always popular ‘disappearing act’ – by leaving the cinema before the credits.