Long-time television director Don Scardino (30 Rock) takes to the big screen in this latest comedy, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Old school Las Vegas magicians Burt (Steve Carell) and Anton (Steve Buscemi) perform to a waning audience when new street magician, Steve Gray (Jim Carey), hits the scene with an assortment of horrific endurance stunts. The long-time duo’s magical friendship snaps under the pressure as they try to salvage their show and the arrogant Burt soon finds himself alone in Vegas, wondering how to recapture his popularity.
The comedy opens on a charismatic 1982 high school prologue that sees Burt and Anton make friends over a disappearing handkerchief trick. It’s a strong start and the fumbling, directionless plot that follows leaves you wishing these charming characters had never left the screen.
While Scardino’s first act flies by in a swathe of fake tan, dodgy stage make-up and glitzy show costumes, the aged magicians’ dreadful dancing and excessive self-confidence is uncomfortable rather than funny.
Steve Buscemi works hard in a thankless supporting role that’s much too light on gags. His magician, Anton, is naive and endearing and would arguably have made a more attractive comedic lead. Burt, on the other hand, is an obnoxious and arrogant personality whose obsolete world view makes it difficult to identify any redeeming qualities. It’s a strange choice of lead role - reminiscent of Will Ferrell’s brave style - and while Steve Carell does a fine job as the repellant character, the rambling plot fails to reveal anything deeper about this egotistical personality.
Instead, as Anton and Burt part company, this clumsy comedy loses its way and its many diverging sub-plots leave the movie spread too thin. Thankfully, an encounter at a Vegas nursing home with retired magician, Rance Holloway - played by an impeccable Alan Arkin - brings The Incredible Burt Wonderstone back for a big finish.
While it possesses some genuine laughs and plenty of gross-out humour, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone feels too familiar to be laugh out loud hilarious and at times the comedy feels as tired as Burt and Anton’s show. It doesn’t help that the concept feels about a decade too late, with street magician, David Blaine, hitting television screens as early as 1997.
An A-list cast makes The Incredible Burt Wonderstone a watchable movie that’s ripe for escapism. Too light on comedy, this neat idea (if a little late) is ultimately hampered by a confused script.
Running Time: 100 minutes