As American goofball comedies go, ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ is probably as good as you will get, due to the all star veteran cast. Set in Las Vegas, we see Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) find fame as successful magicians. Their glittering career is threatened by controversial street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) and they must put personal differences aside to prevail, recapturing the magic that first kindled the friendship.
The script writes itself here, and there are no surprises, playing off a real life scenario; the traditional Penn & Teller-esque act versus the extreme David Blaine type. It is a reflection of the ever-changing entertainment industry, similar to silent hit The Artist which looked at silent movies phasing out to make way for ‘talkies’, it shows how a tried and tested art form can become stale, and if it’s not updated, can be swept away by ‘the next big thing’. This is easy viewing at it’s easiest, with stereotypical subplots and a radio friendly soundtrack, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Laughs do come thick and fast, especially from street magician Steve Gray and his hilarious attempts at holding in his urine for days, and spending the night sleeping on red hot coals.
At the heart of this film, it is blindingly obvious that the cast are enjoying themselves, bouncing off one another and revelling in not taking themselves too seriously, in particular Buscemi and Gandolfini who are light-years away from their ‘two Tony’s’ Soprano’s relationship. Both have impeccable timing, adapting to the genre with ease. Steve Carrell also puts in an interesting performance, escaping the nice guy typecasting he is so closely associated with for a chauvinistic love-hate character, yet he still seems very much in his comfort zone, and delivers the goods. The real pleasant surprise is Jim Carrey, breezing into the plot about a third of the way in, stealing the limelight as eccentric guerrilla artist Steve Gray, which I think is his funniest piece in over a decade. The part was initially lined up to be underplayed by Adam Pally and was altered at a later stage once Jim Carrey was involved as he apparently wanted to take the character in a ‘Jesus-y direction’.
‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ is a lot of fun, and it’s brilliant to see a cast having such a great time, despite the predictability of the narrative. With a lesser known cast, this would just be another throwaway comedy. It is silly from the off, and once the inevitable US sentimentality kicks in, the jokes do subside a little. Though once the awkward ‘romance’ between Burt and Jane passes through, the laughs do fortunately return. The big positive is the welcome comeback of the funny Jim Carrey, and with his turn in ‘Kick Ass 2’ also on the way later this year, hopefully his return to form will continue.