The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is named after Steve Carrell’s main character, but don’t let that fool you- this is Jim Carrey and Steve Buscemi’s movie, and a nice reminder that Carrey’s rubber face can still elicit laughs. It’s also proof that a post-Office Carrell has to find fresher movie material.
Wonderstone follows the downward career trajectory of Carrell and Buscemi’s Siegfried and Roy-esque duo as a new ‘extreme’ street magician played by Carrey takes their popularity and audience share. Wonderstone struggles to stay relevant and keep a job, and along the way re-discovers his love of magic with a little help from his old inspiration, played by the delightfully sarcastic Alan Arkin.
It’s a bit of an odd time for a comedy skewing magicians. It may have been relevant back when people cared about street magic (Carrey’s character is a less-than-subtle jab at Criss Angel), but 2013 is too late to be focusing a movie on the crazy antics of cable TV magicians, even later for larger-than-life Vegas performers. David Copperfield was in one scene, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting his cameo, or even knowing he was there in the first place.
But many of the problems don’t involve the premise. Carrell struggles to keep up the story line of the moive, lapsing in and out of the silly dramatic persona of his character at times when the scripted persona is needed to carry the scene. Next to Carrey, Carrell’s attempts at pulling a silly face just seem bad. The romantic sub-plot involving assistant Olivia Wilde is even more forced than Carrell’s mugging; the end result could be seen miles away and is built on such a flimsy premise that it’s almost insulting.
But hey, there’s a pretty good movie underneath all that! Carrey is hilariously over-the-top and his mannerisms are a nice antidote to Carrell’s blandness, though some of the body humour is fairly cringe-worthy. And Buscemi brings a cool and reserved confidence to his role that we can thankfully still expect from the veteran- one gag involving his character on a misguided charity trip is still making me giggle.
Your tolerance may vary on Carrell, and even Carrey if you can still swallow his schtick, but Wonderstone is an inoffensive and fitfully funny film. It’s more Dinner for Schmucks than 40-Year-Old Virgin, but if a light comedy is what you’re looking for, you could do a lot worse.