You are just begging for the mockery when you put an adjective like “Incredible” right in the title, so the folks behind The Incredible Burt Wonderstone had to deliver, or suffer the ignominy of puns being tossed at them like rotten eggs hurled at the house of the guy who gives apples to Trick-Or-Treaters.
Steve Carell stars as Burt Wonderstone – one of the most successful magicians in the history of Vegas, and his life is falling apart in truly comedic fashion. The act he created with his best friend, Anton (Steve Buscemi) is starting to get tired. People aren’t buying tickets the way they used to. The casino owner, Doug Munny (James Galdolfini), wants to fire him, and a new magician, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), is starting to challenge his status as the top dog, so we have to wonder if Burt has what it takes to get back to the top.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is right there in the spirit of Anchorman mocking television news, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby skewering NASCAR or any of the Will Ferrell movies, and it works.
We’re talking about an amazingly talented cast when you toss in Buscemi, Gandolfini, and Olivia Wilde. Plus, Carrey gets to be as silly and outrageous as you remember him from the days of In Living Color or Ace Ventura. Sure, sometimes he is going a bit too far (he is Jim Carrey after all), but, mostly, the funny guy looks like he is having fun again, maybe the first time he’s had fun since Liar Liar.
Then, Carell gets to excel as more of the reserved of the two, earning our laughter by suffering the slings and arrows of insulting situation after embarrassing situation. There might be times when you wished he was more histrionic, but Carell is the Ying to Carrey’s Yang or Carell is the peanut butter to Carrey’s chocolate. They need to be opposites, who go together deliciously.
Plus, I give the writing team some credit for avoiding the sappy pitfalls many others have been falling into lately. This is a comedy, with some redemption and some heart, but director Don Scardino never leaves the funny bone alone for long. It’s so exciting to see a comedy that wants to be a comedy and continues to be a comedy from start to finish.
It’s not the perfect movie, but it has enough silliness, enough slapstick and enough examination of the strange strange subculture of magicians to make David Copperfield laugh.
3 Waffles (Out of 4)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.