SXSW FILM 2013
By Dirk Sonniksen | March 9, 2013
Director: Don Scardino
Writer(s): Jonathan M. Goldstein (screenplay, story), John Francis Daley (screenplay, story), Chad Kultgen (story), Tyler Mitchell (story)
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini
Who brings home the funny in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone? Alan Arkin. Indeed, Arkin is the best thing about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, playing Rance Holloway, the aging magician whose how-to magic video inspires a young Burt Wonderstone (Mason Cook) to become the older Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell), the hottest magician on the Vegas strip. Arkin’s character is the light breeze that blows in after the big storm attempts to knock your socks off, but we don’t see Arkin much, and instead are left to fend for the comedic table scraps left by the stars of the film.
Had the film revolved mainly around Carell and Arkin’s character, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone could have been a much different film — a film with more heart and more laughs. But their relationship is fleeting, and instead of heart and laughs, a fair chunk of the film is bogged down with the falling out between Burt Wonderstone and his faithful sidekick Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). Wonderstone has a big head and decides that Marvelton is dead weight in his act, and Burt decides to go solo. Do things go badly for Burt Wonderstone at this point? What do you think?
At some point in all the “hilarity”, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) appears. Gray’s our antagonist, and his new brand of magic has the Vegas strip all aflutter, but has Wonderstone and Marvelton incensed — and a rivalry is born. But it’s not just any rivalry — it’s a whacky feud that quickly becomes old hat as Carrey’s character outdoes Wonderstone and Marvelton with magic that leans toward the violent and ridiculous, done with that familiar Jim Carrey flair. Are you with me? Good.
In between all that, we have Jane (Olivia Wilde), a woman that ends up as Wonderstone and Marvelton’s assistant, and while the magical duo attempt a laugh (or fight incessantly), Wilde provides the glue that holds Carell, Buscemi, and the movie, together. Wilde’s character is the straight man (ahem…woman) and offers up many opportunities for the uppity, crass characters of Wonderstone and Marvelton to shine, but they simply cannot heed the call.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is another silly occupational comedy (anchorman, rock star, NASCAR driver…magician) that relies almost solely on the basic premise of the story for laughs (they are crazy archormen, rock stars, NASCAR drivers…magicians, so it’s funny…right?). Unfortunately, the laughs are few and far between and any genuinely funny moments in the film are quickly forgotten when one must endure another fifteen minutes of zany that drags on and on before the next funny moment. Don’t get me wrong — I love zany, but if Carell and Carrey are going to continue these half-baked attempts at comedy, they’ll need to do more than pull the same old rabbit out of a hat.