Monday, April 8, 2013

One Hundred Laughless Minutes Later . . . The Incredible Burt Wonderstone!

The Good: Jim Carrey’s performance
The Bad: Not funny, Boring and predictable plot progression, Canned character arcs, Derivative performances.
The Basics: A rare miss by Steve Carell, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not funny or clever or worth anyone’s time.

When I first saw the movie poster for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, I was a bit miffed; the poster said Steve Carell, but it sure looked like Will Arnett (in his magician role from Arrested Development, no less!). And where I saw Collin Farrell, it turned out the film had Jim Carrey. Beyond that, I don’t think I gave the flick much of a thought . . . until today when I saw it.

That’s an hour and a half of my life I will never get back.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone falls into the rare category of dismal films that leave me with remarkably little to write about because there is not much to them to begin with. Billed as a comedy, I kept waiting for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to actually land a joke. Unfortunately, it only hits one or two in the entire film and the ones that are cute, are cute, not actually laugh-out-loud funny. Fans of Steve Carell are bound for disappointment with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

Opening in the early 1980s, Burt is bullied on his birthday and neglected by his mother (he has to bake his own birthday cake). He takes solace in watching a video of magician Rance Holloway and the next day, he befriends Anton. Burt and Anton grow up together as best friends doing magic tricks and eventually becoming a hit in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, though, Burt is bored with performing the same old act thousands of times over and over again. Relentlessly hitting on his assistant, Jane (whom he constantly, insultingly, calls Nicole), Burt is somewhat relieved when Anton is injured out on the street.

Burt’s feelings of liberation quickly turn into horror when he realizes that he cannot do the familiar banter and tricks without Anton’s help and that there is a hot new magician on the scene, doing more painful and gross tricks than actual magic. Feeling threatened by the magic of Steve Gray, Burt finds his work for Doug Munny ending abruptly. When the only gig he can really get is doing magic at a nursing home, he thinks he has hit an all-time low. Fortunately, he is performing magic at the very home Rance Holloway ended up in and between a pep talk from him, a heart-to-heart with Jane, and the offer of performing at Doug Munny’s ten year-old son’s birthday party, Burt has reason to try to get back in the game. But, with Steve Gray vying for the same opportunities, Burt’s attempt to reclaim the top will be harder on his own.

There was only one truly positive aspect of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and that was, so help me for saying this because I never thought I would in my life, the acting of Jim Carrey. Jim Carrey’s acting talents usually seem to slip into his familiar niche of manic and ridiculous, but he keeps his performance unusually tight in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Instead, he manages to be flamboyant without ever seeming like the familiar Jim Carrey. There is not a moment where his performance of Steve Gray seems like something from one of his sketches from In Living Color.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the other major performers in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Steve Carell performs like the egotistical magician Tony Wonder, Ben Stiller’s character, from Arrested Development, more than anything unique, interesting, or compelling. Olivia Wilde, in a somewhat unfortunate turn, seems like she is trying to be Gwyneth Paltrow in the role of Jane. I swear, several times during The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, I closed my eyes and just listened and Wilde sounded – beat for beat – like Gwyneth Paltrow! Steve Buscemi does not play Anton with his familiar slouch and buggy-eyed weirdness, but he is not given a lot of opportunities to actually be funny, either. In fact, his best jokes come late in the film when Anton goes on a mission to bring magic to the starving people of the world (who, as it turns out, would rather have food and clean drinking water).

Ultimately, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a predictable buddy comedy that starts off early with the best friends breaking up, forcing one of them to realize just how good he had it and there is nothing remarkable about the way the film tries to tell the story. In fact, it has been a long time since I saw a film where so many wonderfully funny people failed to make me laugh . . . or even remotely entertain me.

For other works works with Jim Carrey, please check out my reviews of:
A Christmas Carol
I Love You Phillip Morris
Yes Man
Fun With Dick And Jane
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The Truman Show
Batman Forever


For other movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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