We have many out-there comedies that show off how likeable Steve Carell can be in pretty much any role. We’ve seen him absolutely clueless in Anchorman, the loaner in Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, and even dopey in The Office. In all those renditions, we can see his inherent good personality shine through to the top. This is not as easy of a task to pull off in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but if you keep your mind open to the magic, you might be surprised.
The movie opens with a young, but lonely Burt on his birthday. His single mother has work but leaves his birthday present on the table for him to open. It’s not hard to figure out he’d be opening his first Magic Play set with Instructor Rance Holloway (played by Alan Arkin) laying out the tricks for him. When practicing the next day, he meets Anton (Steve Buscemi), another sad and dorky young boy with no friends to show for himself. Fast forward a few decades and we meet their alter egos Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton; Big time magicians at Bally’s casino in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for them, their prop-heavy magic show has become stale and quickly starts losing ticket sales due to the pretentious new street magician, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) coming to town. Burt and Anton’s 30 year long friendship is put to the test when they try and reinvent themselves with a new and daring trick on the Strip of Las Vegas. When the trick goes south due to Wonderstone’s obnoxious ego, the glittery team-up parts ways, thus creating a lesson learning opportunity for Carell’s character.
While most of the plot was highly predictable, there were a lot of opportunities for humorous antics to bleed through in a positive way; much like they did in Anchorman. The sheer stupidity of the subject can be ignored, and even enhanced with the right kind of comedy. I think that the dynamic between Buscemi and Carell was well received but there just weren’t enough of those moments to fill the movie. Instead, they used Jim Carrey to deliver those laughs; although, I found that attempt to fall flat on its face. As a humongous fan of Jim Carrey since a small child, I found his performance in this film to be the wrong kind of homage to his days on In Living Color. His parts reminded you that the film would have worked best as a short sketch, rather than a full length movie.
The major issue with this movie is that it is immensely hard to root for the main character because you are spending most of the movie learning about additional reasons to hate him. His comeback later in the movie is not nearly as sweet. I felt more enjoyment from seeing Alan Arkin return to magic than I did seeing the Wonderstone and Marvelton team come back together. The movie can be considered daunting in the first 45 minutes but once they move to the solution to the conflict, it starts catching some speed with the audience. Unfortunately, it may have come slightly too late in the film. For this reason, I give The Incredible Burt Wonderstone 2.5 out of 5 Nerd Skulls.