Steve Carell is a really funny dude. Jim Carrey is a really funny dude. Alan Arkin is a really funny dude. Even Steve Buscemi can hold his own when it comes to comedy. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a really almost funny movie. That’s a little harsh, because this movie did make me laugh out loud more than few times, it’s just that it never really comes to together as anywhere near equal to the sum of its parts. But those parts are pretty funny in fits and starts.
Carell and Buscemi play Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, childhood friends, now a team of Las Vegas magicians, a combination of David Copperfield and Siegfried and Roy in their 80s and 90s heyday. The joke is though, this isn’t the 80s or 90s anymore, but Wonderstone and Marvelton are still performing the same act and wearing the same costumes that made them a draw back in the day. It’s an easy laugh, but putting characters in over the top, campy magician outfits from the 80s is just funny. The problem is, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone relies on those kind of easy gags too often. It doesn’t really build on them or ad anything. It just kind of says “Here’s Steve Carell in bedazzled crushed velvet and a lion’s main of streaked hair. You laugh now”.
Jim Carrey is a David Blain-esque street magician and provocateur named Steve Gray who’s new style of stunts and self-mutilation is stealing crowds from the out of date antics of Wonderstone and Marvelton. I guess Carrey is the villain of the story, but The Incredible Burt Wonderstone uses that in a weird way. Carell and Carey only share two or three scenes, and they only really interact in one of them (that I can remember). So it’s hard to get behind the hero when his enemy is so disconnected from the rest of the characters.
Alan Arkin plays Rance Holloway, the magician who was the original inspiration for the childhood versions of Carell and Buscemi to pursue their magical dream. Present day Wondersotne is hitting rock bottom when he discovers Holloway in a retirement home. Then it’s comedy redemption arc business as usual as the mentor reminds the hero why he loved magic in the first place. The clichés aren’t so bad though, when outweighed by some vintage Alan Arkin awesomeness.
Also, Olivia Wilde is in it. That sentence might actually give her character more depth than the movie does.
The major redeeming quality of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is its anything-for-a-laugh attitude. While something like Now You See Me tries to make magicians cool, edgy and dangerous, Wonderstone realises all things magician are actually pretty goofy. There’s nothing cool about David Copperfield, he’s obviously a huge geek. Carell, Carrey, Buscemi and Arkin all recognise and embrace the geekiness of their characters and milk it for every laugh they can. Which is good, because the script doesn’t have many. Anything funny about this movie comes down to the actors and their performances, not the screenplay.