“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is the latest film from comedian Steve Carell.
Carell plays the titular character, an aging magician who, along with his best friend Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), performs a Siegfried & Roy-type magic show, complete with rhinestones and a badly choreographed dance to the song “Abracadabra.”
Burt and Anton’s friendship is threatened by Burt’s massive ego, while their popularity is threatened by an over-the-top street artist named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey).
The cast is completed with aspiring magician Olivia Wilde serving as Burt’s assistant, the retired magician Alan Arkin who inspired Burt as a child, and casino owner James Gandolfini.
“Burt Wonderstone” follows Burt’s character arc as he struggles to deal with a rival stealing his audience, repairing a life-long friendship and re-discovering why he fell in love with magic in the first place.
The movie’s story of show business rivalries and the redeeming power of friendship is nothing original, but it’s entertaining and sympathetic enough to get audiences invested in the characters.
Carell returns to a character he knows all too well — the unbelievably oblivious buffoon — and a more physical comedy after a recent foray into genuine leading-man status with “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
While Carell plays this role well, after “The Office,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Dinner For Schmucks,” and most of his other filmography, the character is getting a little stale.
Is the character amusing? Yes. Would it have been a lot funnier if we hadn’t seen it a million times already? Absolutely.
Jim Carrey is surprisingly fun as the wild street performer Gray, a sort of Criss Angel and David Blaine mash-up.
Carrey revels in the outrageous, and its always fun to laugh at a caricature as eccentric as his character.
Indeed, it’s Carrey and the rest of the supporting cast who actually provide most of the best parts of the movie.
Arkin, fresh off an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in “Argo,” delights in his deadpan humor as the magician who prompted Burt’s interest in magic as a boy.
And in a smaller role, Jay Mohr plays a charmingly un-suave wannabe magician who steals a brief scene.
The writing team of John Francis Daley — famous for playing Sam Weir on the cult classic television show “Freaks and Geeks”— and Jonathan Goldstein created the script.
They’ve recently received noteworthy praise for “Horrible Bosses,” which is a lot better than this film.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is directed by Don Scardino, who is best known for directing and producing episodes of the recently ended television show “30 Rock.”
With so many big names attached to this film, there was a lot of potential here.
But while Burt Wonderstone’s ridiculous antics are funny and the movie is entertaining, it feels like we’ve seen this story a few times already.
My recommendation is that if you’re craving to see Steve Carell portray an awfully costumed buffoon, just stay in and watch the infinitely superior “Anchorman.”