Someone else’s review for “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” said there were only four laugh-out-loud gags in the whole movie.
I must have blinked. I missed three of them.
Ba-dum-pum and .... rimshot.
It’s a wonder that you could have the gifts of funnymen Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin and Jay Mohr at your disposal and wind up with such an unfunny comedy as “Burt Wonderstone.”
But director Don Scardino (“30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live”) manages it. Maybe it’s because this feels like the television he’s used to — comedic episodes strung together rather than a movie. Or maybe it’s because this movie has four credited writers — usually not a good sign.
Carell and Buscemi play Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, pals since they were adolescent outcasts, glomming onto learning magic tricks as their way out of social exile.
Flash forward, and they’re the stars of a megahit Vegas magic act, packing seats and raking in millions.
Flash forward again, and the unchanged act is 10 years old, the crowds have thinned and the pals are sick of each other. Burt is an egomaniac more interested in bedding new conquests than honing his craft.
He’s not having much luck with Jane (Olivia Wilde), his latest stage assistant. Maybe it’s because he keeps calling her Nicole, his last assistant’s name.
Even worse, street magician Steve Gray (Carrey) is stealing all the headlines with his tricks, which are more about self-mutilation than magic — slicing open his cheek to find that missing queen of clubs, sleeping on a bed of live coals, pounding a nail with his forehead. (Is this commentary on the inanity of reality TV? That angle had potential.)
Doug (James Gandolfini), the casino owner who built the Burt and Anton Theatre, is getting very restless — even if his chubby son is Burt’s biggest fan.
Can Burt and Anton remake their act? Rebuild their shattered friendship? Rediscover their love for magic? Will losing everything turn out to have a silver lining? Will Burt ever remember Jane’s name?
Oh, I think we know the answers. If only it were funnier getting to them.
Arkin plays a geriatric magician who was Burt’s initial inspiration, while Mohr is a magician who hasn’t had Burt and Anton’s success. Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) has a cameo as Burt’s accountant.
Of everyone, Arkin and Wilde come closest to surviving this fallen souffle with their dignity intact. Potty-mouth humor and profanity stretch the PG-13 limits past the bounds of family fare.
David Copperfield served as magic consultant on the movie, and some of the tricks are pretty neat.
That one laugh? You’ll have to wait till the very end, when we see how the “making an entire audience disappear” trick works. That made me laugh out loud.
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