Directed by Don Scardino, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a magic-based comedy that pokes gentle fun at the old-style Vegas magicians as well as the modern stunt artists. In Las Vegas, magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are successful headliners, who appear to have lost the passion for magic. After the arrival of growing global superstar Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) whose unique form of magic involves self-abuse on a dramatic scale, the old school pairing split-up and go their separate ways. Having hit rock bottom, Burt goes to do a show in a retirement home and stumbles upon legendary magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) and with the help of former assistant-turned-magician Jane (Olivia Wilde) they attempt to win back their audience.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is as light as a feather and as deep as a puddle, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It’s supported by a dry-as-dust performance from the wonderful Alan Arkin and Jim Carrey‘s lunatic non-magician is a return to form for the hit-and-miss comedian. The romance is as unconvincing as some of Burt’s slight of hand, but Wilde does the best she can in a role that basically requires her to look attractive and occasionally say something obvious. She’s a sort of universal straight women in a world of maniacs.
The best moments involve the actual practising of magic. Sure there’s plenty of CGI with certain tricks, but the more simple slight-of-hand are intensely satisfying and it would be a surprise to discover that the director and writer are magic fans. Carrey‘s stunts also provide some laughs, although like a lot of the film, these moments are fleeting and forgettable.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a simplistic take on the professional rivalry narrative that paints a sweeping and broad stroked comedy encompassing friendship, passion and childhood issues. It never takes itself too seriously, and the jokes are obvious but reasonably entertaining. The strongest performance is Jim Carrey, whose wild Gray is a return to the more manic characters of his youth, and the magic (when not CGI) is as marvellous as you might imagine.