The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Putting over-the-top descriptive adjectives in oneís title isnít a great idea. Because The Amazing Spider-Man isnít, Fantastic Four wasnít, and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone wold have to change its name to The Perfectly Acceptable and Occasionally Hilarious Burt Wonderstone if it wanted to be as accurate as possible.

Pairing the dry Steve Carell with an unpredictable Jim Carrey promised more of a charge than whatís delivered in Burt, a decent comedy about dueling magicians that Ė ironically Ė says interesting things about pushing the envelope to entertain the audience Ö then stops short of pushing the envelope itself.

Wonderstone is Carellís show. The sometimes (intentionally) buffoonish comedian tries on Will Ferrellís oversized ego to play the title character, a bullied child who found escape in magic and parlayed it into a headlining gig at Ballyís on the Las Vegas Strip for both himself and his life-long partner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi, who is tender, childlike and wonderful). But after decades of churning out the same boring stage show night after night, Burt and Anton feel the heat of competition from an up-and-coming, David Blaine-esque street act named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), who mistakes magic for torturous exercises in pain tolerance. Can Burt see through these current troubles and learn to love magic again?

The glitzy backstage settings of Burt Wonderstone give director Don Scardino enough wiggle room to work in unusual laughs we donít see in these man-child-grows-up comedies. Olivia Wilde plays it straight as Jane, the stage assistant hired for Burt and Antonís gig whoís shoehorned into an uncomfortably awkward romantic sidebar with Carell. Itís hardly a surprise that the Office star can switch gears once again, this time playing an insufferable, impatient lout who earns redemption by following Ferrellís pre-determined cinematic paths. And Alan Arkin shines in a small role as the once-great magician Rance Holloway, who inspired Burt at a young age and might have a trick or two up his sleeve to help the struggling performer.

Scardinoís resume is littered with impressive sitcom work Ė from 30 Rock to Cosby -- so its understandable why Wonderstone can feel episodic in spots. As you might have guessed, the film hits its comedic strides when Carell and Carrey play absurd games of one-upmanship (with Carrey winning the battle hands down). The duoís battle involving a puppy at a kidís birthday party is surprisingly sharp, while Carrey lands the filmís biggest laugh with a simple act of levitation in a magicianís bar. (The second-best laugh, if you are keeping track, belongs to Buscemi and his efforts to better the lives of Cambodian refugees who only want food and water. Trust me, in context, itís funny.)

The laughs in Wonderstone may be intermittent, but when they land, theyíre large. Itís barely enough to recommend the uneven comedy, though if youíre fond of Carell and/or Carrey, Wonderstone wonít deeply disappoint. And while a magician shouldnít reveal the secret to his or her best tricks, stick around for the post-credits stinger, which explains in hilarious detail how Burt and Anton pull off a mesmerizing illusion. Burt saves its brightest physical gag for last.†

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