The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Movie Review
While not the laugh riot it could have been, this comedy consistently amuses us with its pastiche characters and silly gags. It threatens to get bogged down in sentiment at a few points along the way, but manages to veer back into something witty just in time. And while none of the characters are quite as classic as Anchorman's Ron Burgundy, it's an entertaining addition to the affectionate-spoof genre, which includes Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights.
The events take place in the sequin-filled world of Las Vegas magicians, where childhood pals Burt and Anton (Carell and Buscemi) have packed out their theatre for 10 years. But their new assistant Jane (Wilde) is surprised to see that it's now performance by numbers for them, and they can barely stand the sight of each other. Meanwhile, the egomaniac Burt won't consider freshening the act even when faced with competition from attention-seeking street magician Steve (Carrey), who's stealing their audience. But the hotel owner (Gandolfini) urges them to try a big stunt themselves. Or maybe they should return to their roots with their old-school mentor Rance (Arkin).
Carell creates a remarkably believable idiot in Burt Wonderstone, an arrogant womaniser who clearly needs to be brought down a peg or two. What's impressive is how likeable he is, even opposite Buscemi's more sympathetic (but less interesting) Anton. Arkin delivers his usual dryly hilarious supporting turn, while Wilde and Gandolfini do little more than play gently with their usual images. By contrast, Carrey's performance is much more broadly comical. He's funny but far too clownish to ever be taken as a serious threat.
But of course the illusions are the film's most entertaining elements, and most of them are extremely clever, often dipping into the frankly impossible to get a laugh. It's especially fun to have the curtain pulled back on these showmen. But the funniest scenes are the ones that sneak up on us, catching us off guard with a small joke or a surprising revelation. As opposed to the elaborately built-up gags, these simpler moments remind us that up-close sleight of hand magic is always more satisfying than massively staged illusions.