The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review
More Formulaic Than Incredible
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone could have been something very special as far as comedies are concerned, however, the audience is left with a predictable, by-the-books rent-a-comedy. The writing team of Horrible Bosses and director of many “30 Rock” episodes combined with comedy juggernauts Steve Carell, Jim Carrey and Steve Buscemi should have been a slam dunk. Unfortunately, what could have been a clever, comedic semi-parody of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige or Neil Burger’s The Illusionist is instead a mildly entertaining popcorn flick taking the path of the familiar “broken-friendship-rekindles-by-film’s-end” a la Step Brothers, Superbad or Pineapple Express.
The best and worst thing about this film is the casting. Any Steve Carell involvement in a project is valuable, however, Steve Carell’s leading-man charm isn’t charming or even evident when he stars as a washed-up, chauvinistic, selfish sleazy has-been. If Carell is a film’s lead, he should be nice, naïve and clumsy. Although Carell pulls it off, we’ve been spoiled with the joys of “The Office,” The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Dinner for Schmucks and can’t ignore what could be. Steve Buscemi co-stars as Carell’s stage partner, Anton Marvelton. The casting of Buscemi is spot-on perfection, but his on-screen time is limited and leaves the audience wanting more Anton. Jim Carrey shines in the role of Criss Angel-esque street magician, Steve Gray. Carrey’s over-the-top role is met with perfect timing by the actor. My suggestion for the filmmakers in retrospect is that Carrey should have been cast in the title role as he’s mastered the jerk-type lead in a comedy while Carell’s unique talent for improv would have been better-utilized in the role of Gray.
Olivia Wilde doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the cast and it isn’t her fault. Despite playing the female lead and love interest to Carell, her youth was made especially obvious while on screen with any three of her 50+ year-old co-stars. This isn’t the days of old Hollywood where it was okay for Jimmy Stewart to court Kim Novak or Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. Alan Arkin rounds out the cast as the elderly inspiration for Carell and Buscemi. Arkin’s timing keeps rolling from Oscar-nominated role in Argo.
While the cast and performances are at the heart of this film’s appeal and performance, the real let-down is the inconsistent writing. Certain scenes work and are memorable, but the overall plot is forgettable and mediocre. You’ll laugh, but the gaps are a little too long and in between.