The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Incredible Burt Wonderstone</strong> (2013)

(On Cable TV, January 2013) At first glance, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has a lot going for it: An ensemble of high-powered comic actors, a rich premise that opposes old-school stage magic with new-style street magic, a return to glitzy Las Vegas and a can’t-miss redemptive arc for the protagonist. What we get is quite a bit less straightforward. From the laboured beginning all the way through an overlong third act, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone can’t quite find either a consistent tone or a sustained rhythm. Scenes run too long (even when the directing bets on the old “repeat it long enough and it will start being funny again” fallacy), the tone keeps going back and forth between attempted sincerity and zany antics and there’s a distinct sense that the film just isn’t trying hard enough to make good use of the tools at its disposal. Steve Carrell may have a likable hangdog charm, but the film takes a lot of time to dispense with the initial arrogance of his character, and then goes through the exasperating romance with a co-star half his age. Fortunately, the cast is usually better than the material. An occasionally-unrecognizable Jim Carrey steals most of his scenes as a street magician with a poor sense of self-preservation (while his scenes are generally the funniest of the film, they’re also the most out-of-place, contributing to the tonal problems), while Alan Arkin makes the most out of a plum grouchy-old-mentor role. Olivia Wilde, Steve Buscemi and James Gandolfini bring added depth to perfunctory-written supporting characters, but even they seem a bit bored with the material. As with the similarly-themed Now You See Me, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone makes the mistake of using CGI to accomplish magic tricks, undermining its basic credibility in the process. Alas, it doesn’t have the breakneck pacing of Now You See Me, and the result feels decidedly average. It’s not that the film doesn’t have its moments (there’s a really good bedtime magician patter scene, and the film always becomes funnier once Arkin or Carrey are on-screen), but it feels as if it’s not trying hard enough the rest of the time. While it’s funny and entertaining enough to warrant a look, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone doesn’t earn much more than a final shrug. There is, simply put, too little magic in the final result.

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