Remember the mid-‘90s? Jim Carrey was the most famous comedic actor in Hollywood. There was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. I remember when we were all shocked to learn he would play a villain in The Cable Guy. Now, he is a supporting actor, just as Steve Carell was to him in Bruce Almighty.
Their careers are going in two different directions right now. Carrey’s is still on the decline after a long run on top and Carell’s has plateaued near the top. Will Ferrell most likely still owns the top rung. However, Carrey got lucky here. In The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, his character, Steve Gray, is the funniest and most memorable take away from this very forgettable non-event. Think Blades of Glory, but with magicians instead of figure skaters.
Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are a stale magician act at the Balley’s Casino in Vegas. Their jokes are old, their illusions are old, and their spray-tanned wrinkling skin is old. They still have an audience because that’s what older folks do in Vegas; they see shows. How else do the Osmonds, Celine Dion, Blue Man Group, and Siegfried and Roy stay employed? However, there is a new guy on the circuit, Steve Gray.
Gray is not technically a magician, more of a stunt performer. He will hold his urine in for 12 days, sleep on hot coals, and hammer a nail into a table with his forehead. He is a cross between David Blaine and Criss Angel, but with a much better TV show name, The Brain Rapist. Gray has no time for the likes of Wonderstone and Marvelton. He knows his career will easily eclipse the aging in-fighting magical duo.
Burt and Anton have grown so bored and insulated from life, that when their show comes literally crashing down around them, reality takes some time to seep back in. Carell plays Wonderstone just as he did Michael Scott in The Office, oblivious and obnoxious. His assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde), is his only friend left on Earth and all he does is ridicule and verbally abuse her. James Gandolfini and Alan Arkin also show up in forgettable supporting roles.
There is nothing unique, special, or remotely intriguing to recommend about Burt Wonderstone. Its story is as stale as Burt & Anton’s magical theatre act. Even the best part of the movie, Jim Carrey’s Steve Gray, unravels in the end in a ridiculous final act. Perhaps everything feels so muted and bland because there were too many chefs in the kitchen. The credits list four names as story creators and two on screenplay duty. If Burt Wonderstone ever had an edge on it or witty creativity, it was duly removed to make room for more cliché and old stand-by gimmicks.
Stay away from Burt Wonderstone. You won’t laugh, you’ll barely chuckle, and you’ll start drifting off remembering those funnier Jim Carrey movies from the mid-‘90s.