THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE 
Directed by: Don Scardino
Written by: Jonathan M Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Oliva Wilde, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini
Using magic as an escape as young children allow magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton to rule the Las Vegas Strip for years. The mega-stars rake in millions of dollars performing illusions to an adoring public but as the years pass Burt’s ego grows and grows until the biggest illusion is their friendship as they now secretly dislike each other. Now a new competition and complication put pressure on their fragile partnership when ‘street magician’ Steve Gray comes into the limelight performing amazing and death defying magic-stunts whilst simultaneously making their stage act look old hat and very stale. Things go from bad to worse as they split and Burt can no longer retain the magic as a solo act. Their chance for redemption comes but only if Burt can rekindle the love for magic that started him on the road to where he is now.
Looking at the director Don Scardino’s track record, he directed several episodes of 30 Rock, alongside the cast surely this had to be a sure-fire, laugh-out loud hit? Unfortunately, it does miss the target as much as it hits it. Carell and Buscemi are their usual reliable selves but the pair is let down but a sporadically funny script. The film starts off reasonably funny, gets better and funnier as it moves along and then sort of runs out of steam at the end. It’s almost as if the writers had a day to conclude the film and submit the script and screenplay. Rushed is a word I would use.
The world of big stage magicians and crazy street magicians [who in real life cheat with reshoots and camera tricks and then say they haven’t] is definitely something that needs to be hung up to be shot at, so I applaud this film for doing just that. I enjoyed James Gandolfini channeling and watering down some of his more ‘wise guy’ roles into the character of Doug Munny, in particular not being able to remember the age of his son at any stage in the story which repeatedly made me giggle. This was offset by Jim ‘gurning Champion’ Carrey who appears to coast through films playing versions of Ace Ventura. Just add water and stand back. Having said this the street magicians are another bunch that desperately need their bubbles of pomposity and deceit burst so I’m not going to worry too much about this. Some of his tricks were beautifully nuts and we will probably see them on TV in the next few years anyway.
It would have been nice to have actual tricks that could be actually performed by magicians throughout the film this would have been a tribute to the skill at least.
Alan Arkin’s character who was Burt’s inspiration was weird but his role confused me throughout, it seemed to be shoe-horned in but I’m guessing that was the poor screenplay or editing, but as usual, if Arkin is on the screen you always seem to end up smiling.
I felt the humour gained at the expense of people wanting food and fresh clean water was close to the edge of what is judged as good taste in this modern world but I’m not so ‘right-on’ that I can’t laugh at the preposterousness of a man bringing magic to these people and then coming back to the US and stating, ‘It turns out they needed fresh water and food’, but I would understand some people not finding this particularly funny.
Over all there was good comedy film to be made here and whilst the story hits the corniness of Las Vegas magic acts ‘nail-on-the-head’ and the naffness of street-magicians I still was left with a feeling of a chance being missed here and a slight emptiness.
Then again every film I see seems to end up this way recently.
I will say if you are a fan of Steve Carell and Jim Carrey and are not overly keen on the spandex-falseness of the magic world then this is the film for you.
I wonder if David Copperfield realised how ironic his appearance in the film is going to appear.