This year's batch of comedies got off to a solid start with the surprise success of "Identity Thief," and "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" hopes to ride that success. A cast full of comedy heavy-hitters like Steve Carell and Jim Carrey gives "Burt Wonderstone" a head-start, but most critics blame a by-the-numbers plot and many pulled punches for the film falling short.
The team behind "Burt Wonderstone" has serious comedy chops; director Don Scardino makes his big-screen debut after helming numerous episodes of "30 Rock," and the screenplay comes courtesy of the team behind "Horrible Bosses" (John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein). With such an impressive pedigree, it's surprising how lukewarm critics are on "Burt Wonderstone." Even the most positive reviews acknowledge the film's inherent seen-it-all-before vibe.
Read on for a sample of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" reviews.
More Squishy Than Edgy
"Was anyone really dying to see someone take Vegas-style magicians down a peg? Carell is amusingly fearless in his character's noxious narcissism, but when it comes time for his humbling, the film's humor turns soft and squishy. There are hints throughout of the darker, edgier comedy that might have been, if, say, Bobcat Goldthwait had made the film a Shakes The Clown for magicians, but the filmmakers instead choose the route that entails a painfully arbitrary love interest who disappears for large swaths of the story (Olivia Wilde, fine in an underwritten role), and plotting so lazy that the climax revolves around a big magic competition. 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' has its cornball charm, thanks largely to the confident work of old pros Carell, Arkin, and Buscemi, but it's ultimately a big, gaudy, predictable show, strictly for the rubes and tourists." — Nathan Rabin, The AV Club
Fun While It Lasts
"Some movies are very good but not enjoyable; other movies are enjoyable despite being not particularly good. 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,' a loosely comedic tale of Las Vegas magicians, fits neatly into the latter category; you watch it thinking that it should be smarter and funnier, but you have a pretty good time anyway. It's the kind of movie that should go down quite nicely with an extra-large popcorn and moderate expectations. ... The movie's full of scenes you wish were better, like one where a group of Vegas magicians (including someone called, quite wonderfully, Rick the Implausible) hang out in a bar, taunting a so-over-it bartender by changing a $100 tip to $1. Maybe someday, a remake of 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' will be a truly great comedy. In the meantime, it's fun while it lasts — and sometimes, we need movies like that." — Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times
"With nothing (positive) to say about this bizarre world, Goldstein, Daley and first-time feature director Don Scardino ("30 Rock," "Law and Order") lazily wander away from an early, promising notion of Burt's lifelong need for acceptance. The filmmakers also establish no legitimate competition, suggesting that Burt's rival, Steve Gray (Carell's "Bruce Almighty" co-star Jim Carrey), an annoying blend of Criss Angel and Johnny Knoxville whose magic consists of stunts like holding his urine for 12 days, is a talent-less joke who will go away on his own. (His TV show is crassly called "Steve Gray: Brain Rapist")." — Matt Pais, Red Eye Chicago
Jim Carrey Is Back
"As the crusty, slightly insane old-schooler with a few tricks up his sleeve, Arkin is a marvel. Olivia Wilde does fine as the obligatory love interest we always see looming on the sidelines in movies such as this, mooning over the goofy lead because she believes he's capable of being a better man. Gandolfini, always interesting on the screen, is a bit miscast as a Steve Wynn-like mogul building a self-named casino. ... (One can picture a Brad Pitt or a George Clooney adding extra layers of charm and oil to the role.) And then there's Carrey, reaching deep into the trick bag that turned him into a star some 20 years ago. He's physical, he's intense, he's ridiculous — and he made me laugh more than any comedic character in recent memory. It's a performance of sublime stupidity." — Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
Pick Up The Pace
"Carell is different, and drier, but a wonderfully skillful actor. You can barely tell in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." It's interesting seeing Carell play a full-on louse (though, of course, a sweetheart underneath), but director Don Scardino seems to have misplaced everything he learned directing all those "30 Rock" episodes. Where's the fleet-footed throwaway material? The movie settles for slow and crude, and that combination works like an anti-charm with any sort of comedy. Nothing ignites or even intersects here. Carrey's in his own movie, doing stand-alone stunts that never work up a head of steam. Gandolfini underplays shrewdly as a venal casino owner; Wilde, as Burt and Anton's assistant with skills of her own, redeems what she can, where she can." — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
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