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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review: No Magic in This New Comedy

Without its A-list cast, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone would have been sent straight to DVD shelves. The film feels like a carbon copy of all the awful "comedies" Will Ferrell made post-Anchorman (Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, Step Brothers). Steve Carell (free of the confines of TV's The Office) steps into the role usually reserved for Ferrell, but this cosmetic change is an illusion as transparent as any awful magic trick found in the film. By the time it reaches its conclusion, you'll be ready to boo the cast and crew off the stage. Carell plays the "incredible" titular character, who, alongside partner Anton (Steve Buscemi), wows sold-out crowds nightly with a Las Vegas act that's gone unrivaled for more than a decade. But as Burt starts to become bored with the repetitiveness of this lifestyle, he and Anton grow apart. Burt chooses to go at it alone, not knowing how insular his little world was, nor how much the public's collective taste has changed. Burt finds himself unable to book anything beyond children's birthday parties and retirement home gigs because a new magician—in fact, a whole new style of magic—has swept the nation. Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) is a street magician in the vein of a Criss Angel or David Blaine, and he's good, but Burt sets his sights on this man and vows to prove he's the superior illusionist. The biggest problem with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is that it's not funny. The punch lines are predictable, stale. Carrel's performance is way too low-key to generate any consistent laughs. Carrey, thankfully, snaps the film out of a coma when he pops up with his ridiculous long hair, but as is his wont, he wears out his welcome quickly. The film also suffers from a painful lack of originality. The film, predictably, wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to send up magicians and the "culture of magic" (if there is such a thing), but such an approach rarely works, and it doesn't help that magic hasn't been a part of the zeitgeist in at least a decade. No one cares about it, which is just another reason (of oh so many reasons) why it's hard to care about this movie. Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin are on hand in woefully underwritten supporting roles. The former is the obligatory love interest. You can almost hear the studio shouting down director Don Scardino for not including a hottie in a major role. Arkin, meanwhile, plays Burt's childhood magician icon. To say his energy is a mismatch here would be understating things severely. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, admittedly, contains a few solid laughs. But why spend ten dollars and two hours of your time on something you can get at home for free on your television in minutes? And the even better question: What in the world was it about this turgid project that attracted talented folks like Carell, Carrey, and company?


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