Mercury News Movie Critic Charlie McCollum broke our heart just now — or at least dampened our excitement for this weekend with his review of Burt Wonderstone – the newest magic-themed movie.
Mr. McCollum writes:
“You would think that a film about magicians would have some magic to it. And you would think that a movie boasting such artful laughmasters as Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin would have some real comedic heft.
“In the case of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” you would be wrong on both counts. It is not a dreadful film. There are just enough laughs and clever moments to keep it north of the Adam Sandler line of comic ineptitude. But it is so wildly inconsistent that it always seems on the verge of completely falling apart and losing what little attachment it has to reality.
We note that the “Adam Sandler line” is our reference point for bad movies as well.
We had hoped the star power and great story idea would make this a must-see film of the spring. Alas, it is apparently not what he hoped.
Mr. McCollum cautions:
Carrey has the acting chops to go to the dark side (which is where Gray ought to be), but in the end, he comes off more Looney Tunes than dangerous lunatic. No one makes unpleasant more relatable than Carell, but there’s nothing he can do with Burt to make the magician’s sudden transformation from raging egotist to nice guy even remotely plausible. Only Arkin really makes something of his role, with his deadpan delivery making his moments on screen far funnier than they should be.
There’s no question that you will laugh at times throughout “Burt Wonderstone.” But if you are looking for something truly magical, you will come away disappointed.
It is a magic story as old as time. Superstar magicians dominate all other acts in the mythical village of “Las Vegas” and become complacent from their success and guaranteed box office draw.
Young up-and-comer magician (Jim Carrey) looks to challenge the flashy duo, causing a crisis of confidence. The magic partnership breaks up bringing economic devastation to both magicians.
Fortunately, an attractive and loyal assistant (Olivia Wilde) encourages the senior magician to return to basics; to find the love he once held deep in his show-biz heart for magic and for his partnership.
The Hollywood production people sent us a blurb (remember the old days when it was illegal to send blurbs using the U.S. Postal System?) describing the plot line in two pithy paragraphs thusly:
Superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have ruled the Las Vegas strip for years, raking in millions with illusions as big as Burt’s growing ego. But lately the duo’s greatest deception is their public friendship, while secretly they’ve grown to loathe each other.
Facing cutthroat competition from guerilla street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose cult following surges with each outrageous stunt, even their show looks stale. But there’s still a chance Burt and Anton can save the act—both onstage and off—if Burt can get back in touch with what made him love magic in the first place.
We look forward to seeing Jim Carrey as the young buck, Steve Gray. He performs magic from a new paradigm like cutting off his face or not using the bathroom for almost a week. According to one critic, his character is a melange of David Blaine and Criss Angel.
We also understand that David Copperfield appears in the film as himself and has contributed a new illusion to the story.
According to Variety, Steve Carell of The Office, Bruce Almighty, and The 40 Year-Old Virgin fame, is bidding for the ‘Burt Wonderstone’ role in a new magic-themed film.
The plot seems interesting: Burt Wonderstone is the typical Las Vegas magician working through some issues on his way back to the top. Chief among those nagging concerns is his accidental killing of his partner.
Mr. Carell has cache and clout in Hollywood. The script sat on shelves in New Line Cinema’s offices for four or five years looking for that special something to attract investors.
The film does not yet have a director, producer, key grip, best man, clapper-loader, caterer, or unit accountant but it has Steve Carrell. Apparently the rest will follow in his footsteps. Everyone likes a winner and Mr. Carrell’s film and television track record looks solid, bankable.