Film: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

What a fascinatingly terrible movie. I’m not sure why the dial stopped on The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013), but once I started watching, I couldn’t look away. It’s like rubbernecking at a horrific accident.

It’s the story of lifelong friends Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), two friends who channel their shared passion for magic into successful careers on the Las Vegas strip. But times change, and sense of wonder fades, and just as Burt and Anton’s career starts to decline, a new star ascends: Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, channeling Ben Stiller), an extreme “stunt magician” who brings Johnny Knoxville recklessness to his magic on the reality show Brain Rapist. The struggle to save their act tears apart their friendship, and sends Burt’s career into a tailspin. But with the help of his beautiful assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) and inspiring mentor Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), Burt throws off his dickish, sexist old ways and rekindles his sense of wonder.

This is one stilted, peculiar, and unfunny comedy. Its screenplay is recognizably formulaic, in a haphazard way that reeks of out of control script-doctoring. To its credit, the cast is game for anything, and throws itself whole-heartedly into the bizarre material, but for all the comedic firepower, there are precious few laughs: an understated delivery from Olivia Wilde here, a cheesy casino commercial from James Gandolfini there. It’s an utterly weird watch: the bits should be funny, you can see how they might track as funny on paper, but the execution is just way off the mark. If you’re laughing at all, it’s for the wrong reasons.

I can’t believe I watched this horrible film. There must have been something in the air last night.

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