The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Director: Don Scardino

Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, Jay Mohr

Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, (story) Chad Kultgen and Tyler Mitchell

Running Time: 100 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 15th March 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone should have winner stamped all over it. A comedy that satirizes Las Vegas magicians with a cast of strong comedy performers. It could have been Anchorman for the magic world. Instead it’s not that incredible and there is an air of disappointment.

Burt Wonderstone was bullied as a boy and told no one would like him. Things changed when he was given Ranch Holloway’s Box of Magic. He makes friends with Anton Marvelton and the pair became a partnership, creating bigger and better tricks. Years later, they have a residency in a Las Vegas hotel, their own theatre and their friendship is on the rocks. Burt’s ego is getting the better for him, the audiences are staying away from their show and a new magician, Steve Grey is getting everyone’s attention with his stunts. Trying to keep up, Burt and Anton try to compete by hanging from a glass box on the Strip but their relationship comes crashing down, along with themselves. Burt is left alone, without a job, without a home and without money. He finds employment performing magic to a retirement home where he meets his hero and a chance to change his attitude and his act.

Taking the mickey out of magicians like Sigfred and Roy maybe easy targets but their act screams for satirizing. The trouble is when you are making a comedy, you have to make sure the script is funny. There are flashes of laughs here but instead a big belly laughs, you get a single titter and that’s it. While you’re watching it, you are almost shouting at the screen “Missed Opportunity!”

The cast are more than capable comic performers. Steve Carell, as we know, can be very funny. Looking over his resume of past films, there are absolute gems, none more so than Brick in Anchorman. He’s also very good at being the Everyman. Here he is given a comedy character with a strange accent and even stranger hair. Yes, he has a few sniggers but it’s like he is trying too hard, so instead of letting the comedy come naturally, he is forcing it. Steve Buscemi, as Anton, seems like he isn’t givne enough to do and so we hardly see the best of him and Jim Carrey is totally wasted as the David Blaine style Grey. Carrey is great at being a lunatic but here he’s not that funny.

So where do the laughs come from? From the supporting cast. Olivia Wilde, who is always worth watching, gets some nicely timed giggles as Jane, the assistant whose more than just a pretty face and the always reliable Alan Arkin as Ranch, walks away with the film.

So you are watching this film, the odd chuckle here and there but not enough to cover its running time when it seems like the writers, who were dozing off while at the word processor, realised that there wasn’t any laughs for most of its running time, then in the final 10 minutes crams all the best gags, like we have had to sit through a 95 minute lead in for the final punchline. In fact the biggest laughs in the cinema came right at the every end, as the audience were leaving.

Director Don Scardino has worked on some of TV’s finest comedies (30 Rock, Cosby etc) so he knows how to deliver comedy. Maybe the big screen is too big for him.

On the day of Comic Relief in the UK, I wanted to have big laughs with Carell and the gang. They didn’t come and so I left unsatisfied. A pity because hidden in here is a great comedy trying to get out. Maybe with better writers, a stronger director and a recasting, it would be found. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone? Not really.

2/5

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