Film Review – The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th March 2013.

I’ve always been a little dubious when it comes to movie titles that consist of a character’s name. For every Erin Brockovich there’s a Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. For every Michael Clayton, there’s a Mr Deeds.

Blame Adam Sandler. He certainly cornered the market on this, starting with Billy Madison, his finest comedic turn in my opinion, and then Happy Madison. It’s all downhill from there but that’s another column.

And so it was with a little trepidation that I experienced The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Steve Carell stars as the titular Las Vegas magician whose act has became stale. A split with his long time stage partner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) and the growing popularity of newcomer street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) forces Wonderstone out of his luxurious casino apartment and onto the streets. With the help of veteran magician Rance Halloway (Alan Arkin), the man who inspired him to become an illusionist, Wonderstone must rediscover his roots to win back his place onstage at Ballys.

Carell is a gifted comedic actor but I’ve never been convinced that he can carry a film on his own. Smartly, he surrounds himself with a fantastic supporting cast. Most recently seen in the brilliant HBO series Boardwalk Empire as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, Steve Buscemi reminds us that he can do comedy too with a scene stealing turn as Wonderstone’s naive offsider. Alan Arkin is one of the best character actors working today and shines as a disgruntled retired magician. And Jim Carrey is all abs and tattoos as the sinewy unhinged Steve Gray, a thinly veiled clone of street magician Criss Angel.

But the true stars of this movie are the crazy wigs. Carell, Carey and Buscemi are regularly upstaged by their Copperfield-tastic rugs.

Screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley also penned Horrible Bosses, a comedy with a nasty streak that starred Jason Bateman and Kevin Spacey. This time, they hold back on the black humour in favour of sight gags and slapstick.

Director Don Scardino is a veteran TV comedy director best known for his work on 30 Rock, and handles proceedings with a solid but unremarkable style.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has enough gags to keep you tittering throughout its 100 minute running time. Unfortunately, most of them are featured in the trailer. The best laugh of the film comes right at the end of the film. I won’t spoil it except to say that it is worth the wait.

You could do worse than this flick for your hard earned movie dollars. I just don’t think we’ll be talking about it in a few years. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a solid but unremarkable comedy. Only time will tell if it will be remembered as a successful movie named after its lead character.