“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” written by Jonathan M. Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay), Chad Kultgen (story) and Tyler Mitchell (story), directed by Dan Scardino, 100 minutes, rated PG-13.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is a comedy stuck in the past, living in an age where you could throw a couple of stars together with a gimmicky premise and a few surefire gags, and you’d have yourself a goldmine. Unfortunately for this film, that formula doesn’t really fly anymore.
Luckily for “Burt Wonderstone,” Steve Buscemi dances in it.
The film stars Steve Carell as the title character Burt Wonderstone, who has grown up with dreams of becoming a magician alongside his best friend, Anton, played by Buscemi. They make it big in Las Vegas, but after years and years of the same routine, their act becomes stale, their friendship deteriorates, and their audience looks elsewhere for entertainment, leaving both without work.
The new magician in town, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, miscast), is a street performer who’s a weak parody of Criss Angel. He’s less of an illusionist and more into performing stupid stunts such as sleeping on a bed of hot coals or holding his urine for a world record. Trust me, it’s as unfunny as it sounds.
When the hotelier and former employer of Burt and Anton (James Gandolfini) hosts a competition to find his next big act, the duo have to reunite for a performance that will outdo Steve Gray’s onstage shenanigans. It’s a dated underdog premise that most studios left behind more than a decade ago. Yet, here we are again.
Fortunately, Steve Buscemi dances in the movie.
Carell takes on a new role with the first 30 minutes of “Burt Wonderstone,” playing against his usual midlife crisis type, and stepping into the role of a womanizing narcissist. However, after his fallout with Anton, he reverts back to the same down-on-his-luck Steve Carell we see in every single movie.
There are a couple of decent laughs here, and an amusing cameo from David Copperfield. There’s also some depth in its supporting cast, with Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde and Gandolfini, who all fit their roles nicely. Jay Mohr even makes an appearance. But it’s just not enough to keep this premise afloat.
There is one thing, though, that really makes “Burt Wonderstone” worth seeing. Have I mentioned Steve Buscemi dances in it?