The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone At some point in the recent past screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis were asked to wave their magic wands and come up with a comedy based on the world of magicians. Something presumably with the endless quotability factor of Anchorman, the smug fallen hero of Talladega Nights, and the oddly touching bromance of Step Brothers. Sadly, by putting these elements into their big hat and uttering the magic words, they have pulled out a turkey rather than a bunny. That turkey is The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

Steve Carell plays the titular hero, a legend in Vegas for the show he puts on with lifelong best friend Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). The duo fall on hard times with the arrival of rival street performer Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose own brand of body torture magic makes the duo’s more traditional show seem dated. In the manner of most Will Ferrell comedies of the last ten years the protagonist is a talented yet arrogant hero who has become disconnected from the world he once loved. Just as it has been done with newsreaders, Nascar drivers, and figure skaters, now Carell attempts to mine even more comedy gold from the familiar format with flamboyant illusionists.

Unoriginal premises are not necessarily a death sentence in comedies provided the audience is amused, and to its credit Burt Wonderstone just about pulls it off. Not blessed with out and out belly laughs there is a consistent chuckle rate that runs almost throughout, with a look into Marvelton’s post-magic career as a humanitarian a particular highlight. These mild amusements aside the little good faith the film manages to obtain goes up in a puff of smoke thanks to a conclusion that is lazy, unspectacular and beyond even the slim realms of plausibility established onscreen. It ends with the feeling of the tablecloth being pulled out from underneath you and exposes Burt Wonderstone as an act with nothing up its sleeve.

Michael Clancy