Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Young Albert (Mason Cook) is a lonely boy. He lives with his mother who works frequently, meaning he’s often home alone. One year, while celebrating his birthday (alone) he opens a present to reveal a magic kit complete with an instructional video featuring the great Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin). Albert practices the enclosed tricks and is soon a young wiz with the sleight of hand. A chance meeting with fellow lonely boy Anton (Luke Vanek) nets him an assistant. Together the two devise new tricks and dream of the day they will be on top of the magic world.
A sweet film with a message of never giving up on your dreams, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” gets by on the magic of a game cast. Now adults, Burt (Carell) – the former Albert – and Anton (Buscemi) are THE attraction to see in Las Vegas, where there show, “A Magical Friendship,” packs them in nightly. But things aren’t what they seem. Off-stage these friends have grown tired of each other, fake-smiling their way through performance after performance while they gradually grow bitter at performing the same illusions over and over. Burt now fancies himself a lady’s man, though his female assistants would be to differ. After firing yet another one – mid show – Burt appoints one of the stage crew to the position. Jane (Olivia Wilde) reluctantly takes the job, even though Burt continues to call her “Nicole” – the name of the last assistant.
Meanwhile, a new kind of entertainer has come on the scene, one Steve Gray (a hilarious Carrey). Gray is a performer in the tradition of David Blaine – he really doesn’t do anything. Among his “feats” are staring for three days without blinking and not peeing for twelve. Yet Gray manages to attract crowds while filming a television special called “Brain Rapist.” And as Gray begins to grow, Burt and Anton’s audiences begin to shrink. Soon their theatre is dark and Burt finds himself performing at the local Big Lots. But a chance meeting with his inspiration convinces Burt he may have one more trick up his sleeve.
Consistently funny, with a little heart mixed in, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is a welcome addition to multiplexes still packed with raunchy comedies, action films and last year’s Oscar contenders. Carell and Buscemi work well together and it’s nice to see Buscemi with a substantial comedy role, not just a bit in an Adam Sandler film. Wilde, who was so funny in last year’s underrated film “Butter,” also flashes some comedy chops, holding her own with Carell and Carrey, two comic masters. As a casino owner more involved with business then his own son James Gandolfini is perfectly cast. Carrey steals the film as Gray, a man more concerned with the trappings of fame then actual entertainment. The script quietly delivers the laughs, not hitting you over the head as some comedies do. Director Scardino, an Emmy winning television veteran, keeps the film moving while staging some great visual illusions.