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 guerrilla street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose cult following surges with each outrageous stunt, even their show is starting to look stale. But there's still a chance Burt and Anton can save the act - both onstage and off - if only Burt can get back in touch with what made him love magic in the first place. Written by
Burt Wonderstone may be more pleasant than it really deserves credit for. Maybe it's because the past two months have been such a wasteland for films, or maybe it's because I am somewhat easily amused. None the less, this is a pleasant film. It didn't blow me away or leave me crying from laughing so hard, but the combination of the comedic chops of the delightful cast and the entertaining magic tricks left me smiling when I left the theater. In a time when there is little in the theater to get excited about, this is a film I quite enjoyed.
Steve Carell plays magician Burt Wonderstone, the boastful, self-indulgent, and obnoxiously asinine half to Steve Buscemi, who are partners, and best friends since childhood, in the magic business in Vegas. However, both Burt's obnoxiousness and a new street magician, played by Jim Carrey, soon get in the way of his success, and he's forced to re-examine what his career means to him.
While the magic might be a mystery here, the plot isn't, and it's a plot that goes through all the motions and hits all the points. But if you're someone who doesn't mind that, you will find yourself enjoying this film for it's bright points. Steve Carell is both pompous and lovable here, an idiot savant so to speak, but as a magician lampooning well known, silly performing magicians in Vegas, he's hilarious. Jim Carrey is the second part of the equation, at his best since years. Jim hasn't been this funny in a long time and steals the show every time he's on screen. Rounding out the cast are an underused Steve Buscemi, who disappears for a good chunk of the film, Olivia Wilde who seems like a bit of a mismatch for the goofy Carell, and James Gandolfini as James Gandolfini running a casino. There's also a wonderful appearance by Alan Arkin as an aging and inspirational magician.
There's a lot here that works, and a lot that doesn't. All of the mockery towards magicians of all kinds are spot on. Carell and Buscemi are perfect as send ups of well known magicians like David Copperfield and Jim Carrey is likewise as a caricature of "street magicians" like Criss Angel. And there's just enough Jim that he's hilarious, but not obnoxiously overused. Olivia Wilde gets her own spotlight to shine and she's as pleasant as ever here. And the combination of magic and comedy are a great and somewhat refreshing mix. I'll also add that just about everything with Alan Arkin is hilarious.
However, the film is pretty formulaic and there's a lot that feels forced. The love story, for one, feels generic and plastic. It's hard to believe that, after everything Olivia Wilde's character goes through with Carell's character, she falls for him (though there is a particular scene between the two that is pretty hilarious). Most of the plot points also feel very by the numbers. Most of the comedy comes from gags and one-offs.
But, in the end, it all adds up to a fun and entertaining time. If you're going expecting something amazing, you'll probably be disappointed, but if you're going expecting to have a fun time, then I think you will find yourself pleased.
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