The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – 2013

Director Don Scardino
Starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini
Screenplay John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

The purpose behind magic is to believe it is real.  The purpose behind comedy is to believe it is funny.  The purpose behind acting is to believe they are characters in a story.  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone fails on all three.  Steve Carell is in 2 of the best comedies of modern times, in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and The 40-Year Old Virgin.  He then went on to feature prominently in one of the great television comedies, The Office.  Somewhere around season three, the wheels fell off.  He alternated between so-so to horrible comedies (Get Smart, Date Night, Dinner for Schmucks), maudlin and schmaltzy romances (Dan in Real Life, Little Miss SunshineCrazy Stupid Love, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), and all of those kids cartoons (Over The Hedge, Horton Hears a Who, Despicable Me).  He’s kept busy, but he hasn’t done work of much consequence.  It’s sad to say that he keeps up the trend here.

In The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Carell manages to make a so-so, maudlin, schmaltzy and cartoonish film that does not stand out in any way.  It’s all about hugging and learning, with a dash of hugging and learning thrown in for good measure.  There are no effective jokes, unless you count Jim Carrey doing more of the annoying crazy crap that he used to do before he tried drama.  There was not one moment in the film that induced as much as an out loud laugh, although I did smirk just hearing Alan Arkin’s voice.

We get to see, among other things:

  • Steve’s Burt turn from boorish to understanding.
  • Steve Buscemi’s Anton repeatedly referred to as ugly.
  • Olivia Wilde’s Jane objectified repeatedly, until it’s time for Burt to learn stuff.  Then he gets to make out with her.
  • Jim Carrey doing “mind rape” magic, as a thinly veiled copy of the Chris Angel Mind Freak stuff.
  • Alan Arkin being Alan Arkin.
  • James Gandolfini wasting his talent in what would be the last movie released before his untimely passing.

There’s really nothing else here, and that is a shame.  Steve Carell has immense talent.  He has a great heart too.  His appearance on The Office finale showed both.  He scored big once more with the sequel to Despicable Me, but a can of tomatoes could have played the role of Gru.  It’s the Minions that make those films.  I really hope that The Way, Way Back helps to bring Carell back to respectability.  He has substance.  I just want to see it.

(** out of *****)

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