Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey find that magic touch in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” a ridiculously silly comedy that’s every bit as entertaining as you’d hope.
Burt (Carell, “Get Smart”) and Anton (Buscemi, “Rampart”) were childhood outcasts who found a common bond in magic, specifically the instructional video of legendary magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin, “Argo”). Inspired the pair team up and their “magical friendship” becomes the basis of their headlining act at Las Vegas bigwig Doug Munny’s (James Gandolfini, “Killing Them Softly”) hotel.
But a decade as a featured performer has left Burt bored and jaded quickly bedding and ditching countless groupies and disposable model assistants with barely a thought. He’s an example of excess with an over-sized bed and wall-sized self-portraits for decoration and he can’t be bothered to remember the name of his new assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde, “People Like Us”).
Carell is on his comedy A-game here parodying every delusional, self-absorbed celebrity complete with a goofy mullet-hairpiece. It’s his best pure comedic role since “The 40 Year Old Virgin.”
Burt and Anton’s tired shtick gets exposed for its staleness as extreme magician Steve Gray (Carrey) begins drawing larger crowds on street corners than the duo is able to muster in their performance hall.
Gray is the film analogy for the Criss Angels of the magician’s circuit right down to Gray’s “Brain Rapist” tag spoofing Angel’s “MINDFREAK” nickname. Screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley clearly fall into the “old-school” magician’s club and even work in a cameo for David Copperfield, who served as a consultant.
It’s a perfect role for Carrey who can obnoxiously overact to sell a joke to his heart’s content and it works great in this context. Carrey is in his comedic zone and he’s unpredictably zany.
Fearful over dwindling attendance and being upstaged by a “stunt magician,” Anton and Burt devise a master trick that will once again amaze audiences and reclaim their status as Vegas’ top act. Burt’s ego ruins it shortly after it begins and the two bitterly part ways.
Forced out of the spotlight, Burt finds himself in one humiliating role after the next culminating in performing at a retirement home where he meets Rance and is once again inspired to rekindle his love of magic. Rance is a bit of a one-note character, but Arkin provides some nice scene-stealing moments.
Early on, you can see the foreshadowing of Burt and Jane hooking up. I was initially apprehensive about that as Carell is 50-years-old and Wilde just turned 29, but the tremendous payoff makes it all worthwhile.
Longtime TV director Don Scardino (“30 Rock,” “Cosby”) knows comedy and wisely lets his veteran cast handle the heavy lifting without much interference.
“Burt” was either going to be a wonder or incredibly awful. Yes, it’s silly and goofy, but it does the trick if you’re looking for a laugh this weekend.
Rating: 7 out of 10