THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE
Friends since they were little kids, Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) seem to have it made as magicians, headlining together at Bally's Casino, making millions, and having their own room there. But a decade later, their act hasn't changed, from the red velvet outfits to the corny jokes and dances. What has is Burt: He treats Anton like garbage, lives for one-night stands with audience members and assistants (including Jane (Olivia Wilde), promoted on the spot), ignores every criticism of him, and considers himself, well, incredible.
But tastes change, and the public attention is caught by Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, doing a nice parody of Criss Angel). Gray is almost unbalanced, doing "illusions" that seem to consist entirely of self-harm; he's also obnoxious, starring in a show called Brain Rapist, and thoroughly contemptuous of the classic magicians. Casino owner Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) loves Gray and hates Burt's declining ticket sales. In short order Burt ends his friendship with Anton, loses his job at Bally's, and has a cardboard cutout of himself in a cheap hotel room as he goes from one humiliating gig to another.
But there's hope in a contest for Doug's new casino (called "Doug") where the winner will get millions and a new ongoing act. Will Burt rediscover the joy of magic? Can he reconcile with Anton and strike up a romance with Jane? And will the new act beat Steve Gray for the grand prize?
If this all sounds cliche, that's because it is. Unfortunately, almost none of it is funny. Carrell plays the same sort of oblivious clod he did in The Office, followed by a 180-degree change to the nice guy in the movie's second half. Carrey is good with his looney facial expressions and obnoxious attitude, but it's a standard one-dimensional villain. Buscemi is largely wasted here, and Wilde has little to do besides get exasperated with the males in the cast (and suffer through an unbelievable romantic subplot). Alan Arkin has some fun as the cranky old magician who inspired Burt in the first place -- but the movie doesn't give him many opportunities to do anything.
As for humor and magic, they're both in short supply here. After seeing this movie, I struggled to remember any funny lines or scenes; and there's little going on magically, especially a "big finale" that feels like a cheat, both comically and magically. The only real magic in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the transformation of a solid cast into a dull thud of a movie.
Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch