Reviewed on March 15th, 2013
Roadshow presents a film directed by Don Scardino
Screenplay by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Story by Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Tyler Mitchell and Chad Kultgen
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, Jim Carrey and Olivia Wilde
Running Time: 100 minutes
Released: March 14th, 2013
What attracted experienced actors Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin to such a miserable screenplay? Barely raising a laugh, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is frightfully dull and predictable, the work of four screenwriters and Don Scardino, an experienced TV director. The best they've been able to provide a richly talented cast is a script that has no urgency, no surprises or any memorable jokes.
Do you remember this story? There are two strands: a shallow, self-absorbed man, who treats people poorly, loses his privileges in life. He comes to realise that he needs to rejuvenate himself, understand how much friendship means to him, and that he can share talent X again.
If you know this story and have already started reaching for the bucket then you don't need to see Burt Wonderstone. It's as though the filmmakers are sharing a private joke in the cynical and contemptuous way the movie purports to being about celebrities reinventing themselves. "New equals value," we're told. This is from a film that gleefully wastes its stars on a story so tired its growing mould.
Carell is Wonderstone, a magician who has been with his stage partner Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) since they were children. Wonderstone is rude, arrogant and a womaniser. He doesn't respect his staff, including Anton and the stage assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde). He also doesn't want to change the same routine he's been performing for years. But the show's numbers are down and the owner of the Vegas casino (James Gandolfini) isn't happy and wants new material. After trying a new stunt, Anton is injured and leaves the partnership.
Meanwhile, radical new magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), who specialises in tricks involving mutilation, begins to steal Burt's spotlight. Having blown all his money, Burt is left to fend on his own. After trying to gather help from Jane, he resorts to performing magic tricks in a retirement home, where he meets his childhood idol, former magician Rance Holloway (Arkin). He urges Burt to regain some of his passion.
Steve Carell is an often brilliant comedian when he strikes the right notes between an Ordinary Joe, deadpan and just plain daft. With his hangdog expressions, he's akin to playing middle-aged men in crisis. He does this very well. But "pompous" and "womaniser" are not words that I would ever associate with him. He's completely miscast, and overplays his hand at making Burt mean-spirited and arrogant. There's no consistency in his acting style either. The forced snootiness disappears once we reach the second of three long acts.
There's really only a skeleton of an old, worn-out story for everyone else to work through here. Characterisation remains achingly thin, with the supporting roles never developed beyond their familiar archetypes: remember the friend, the romance interest, the boss and the rival? Each of these elements feels like it's been punched out by a production line or a marketing committee, especially the romance, where Carell is courting Jane, played by an actress twenty years younger than him.
Director Scardino has worked on television shows like The West Wing, Ed and 30 Rock but his contribution here is lazy. There are poorly written and directed scenes, where characters literally sit down to explain the trajectory of each new act. It's been crafted without a feeling for tension, pacing and most importantly, big laughs. The slapstick gags are dumb and obvious, consisting of people falling over, being shot with a nail gun and various other forms of self-harm. If the movie does have anything to say it is about how long people can survive off the same old shtick. But it's a question of self-interest, tested to embarrassing and unfunny new lows.
Saw the previews as well, but will skip this movie. It does not seem to bring anything original to the table.
well atleast the audience liked it. Forget the critics, if most people like the movie then it is more likely you will like it but there some people who don't but they are less.
@foxfacer2d2 The audience didn't like it too much bucko. The movie tanked at the box office: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Incredible_Burt_Wonderstone#Box_office
Steve Carell as a leading man is hit or miss. As a supporting actor he almost always does a great job like in Anchorman, Little Miss Sunshine, and Bruce Almighty. It's hard to know sometimes what a film gets out of him.
@Skrillbak I agree. When he is the lead though, it is best to put him in a sympathetic role that the audience can relate to, not in a silly role. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was fantastic, but was also more of a drama with comedic undertones here and there.
I saw the preview and was really hoping this would be another Anchorman or Dodgeball. I am tired of campy comedies that suck!
I haven't found a single skit actor funny in feature films since the SNL and Second City casts of the early 80's. People like Belushi, Radner, Chase, and the end of that era with Eddie Murphy. They could stand up on their own comedy to carry a movie, rather than movies based around the 'character' they are.
It's why every Farrell, Myers, Carrey, Carell movie is virtually identical. Just a showcase for the one character that was popular for 20 seconds on SNL 15 years ago, rehashed over and over. Talk about typecast, not just cast in silly comedies, but stuck essentially milking a character for a skit back when someone actually cared about your career.
Steve Carrell is a bit hit and miss for me, this doesn't sound very appealing and too similar to other things I've seen.
I'm happy Jim Carrey is supposedly excellent in it. Ill see it for that alone! I mean what else is there to see? Tv is better than feature films nowadays...
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@Suikogaiden The Daily Show, The Office, Anchorman, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin would disagree with you.
I can care less about Steve Carell, he's not really a good lead in my opinion; I knew this movie would be awful when I first heard about it. My concern is what the hell happened to Jim Carey?
@-INKling- Ugh. There's no one on the face of the Earth more dull than Will Ferrell. I was already sick of him by the time Talladega Nights came out.