As far as a comedy premise goes, there can’t be too many more fertile subjects than the world of Vegas magicians. The story starts with a young Burt being bullied in middle school and finding refuge in his friendship with Anton and their shared love of magic tricks. In present day, Burt and Anton are now headliners of the most popular show in Las Vegas, complete with cheesy banter and ridiculous costumes. After doing the same show and the same routine for over ten years, their relationship has started to fray and they have lost their love of performing.
Along comes new, extreme magician Steve Gray with his crazy stunts and attention-grabbing illusions. His act has started to draw the audiences away from Burt and Anton to the point where they end up losing their show and breaking up. As Gray ascends and Burt continues to fall into obscurity an opportunity arises to be the headliner at a new mega-resort which pits them against each other.
Steve Carell stars as Burt Wonderstone, Steve Buscemi is Anton Marvelton and Jim Carrey is Steve Gray, so you know that the cast is terrific. When the movie is at its best, it is because of the incredible timing and comedic instincts of its stars. When it struggles, it is because the story and direction doesn’t do enough to serve the talent of its leads. Also, too much of the film keeps the leads separated. The bulk of the movie is between Steve Carell and Olivia Wilde or Steve Carell and Alan Arkin. One would think that if you cast Steve Carell and Jim Carrey in a comedy that you would let them go nuts playing off each other, but that is not the way this movie went. Some of this movie’s best ideas felt a little underserved. One of my favorites was the fact that there was a bar where magicians would come to hang out, and you meet some of the low level gimmick magicians. Jay Mohr pops up in the bar as Rick The Implausible and he has a few really funny exchanges. There are some gems in these short scenes and I wish that there had been a couple more of them.
Don’t get me wrong; I laughed enough to enjoy myself, but not enough to say that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a great comedy. This movie gets a C.