The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Laughs are lacking in this tale of rival Vegas magicians, starring Steve Carell and Jim Carrey
After competing dramas about competing magicians (The Prestige and The Illusionist) comes the same idea played for broad laughs. Given that Vegas-style showmanship is ridiculously campy anyway, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has a large, rhinestone-encrusted target to aim for, yet misses its mark by some way.
Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) has turned his childhood unpopularity into a plus by fighting back against bullies, via a crowd-pleasing magic act which brings fame and fortune to him and his shy pal Anton (Steve Buscemi). Their well-worn Siegfried and Roy-style double-act is still drawing in crowds to the swanky Vegas hotel owned by Doug Munny (James Gandolfini), but the arrival of upstart street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) breaks up the act and forces Burt to return to his mentor for inspiration, the ageing Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).
The contrast between Wonderstone's old school showmanship magic (David Copperfield has a cameo) and Steve Gray's more physical escapades (recalling David Blaine's torture-as-entertainment approach) promises a fertile ground for comedy, but Don Scardino's film struggles to raise a smile. Beneath his cheerful exterior, Burt Wonderstone's self-disgust at going through the motions seems to have a wider application to the whole cast, with Carell and Carey listlessly playing caricatures without much depth.
As with last year's The Campaign, the structure promises a no-holds barred duel of bad taste, but Burt Wonderstone's competition eventually offers a battle of no more size or scope than a single set piece fracas at a child's birthday party. Wasting a rich supporting cast, including Olivia Wilde as an ambitious magician, Scardino's film has little of the zip of his work on Tina Fey's 30 Rock: the result lacks wit, genuine laughs, or any real sense of wonder, just a couple of misfiring comics in fright-wigs going through the motions.
General release from Fri 15 Mar.