May 31, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 67°F


Review: Script and directing sinks humorous movie

Boasting a phenomenal group of actors, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” had all the potential to be one of this year’s first comedic hits. In the end, however, the only success the film had was in its cast, with the weak screenplay and directing hurting the overall quality.

The film begins in the childhood of Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). As fellow victims of bullying, the pair forms what they call a “magical” friendship. Through a shared love of magic, the duo develops an act that makes it all the way to the Vegas Strip. Years later however, a new performer, street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) takes over the pair’s spot on top and they separate. Upon hitting rock bottom, Wonderstone must reunite with his partner Anton as well as his former assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) to make his triumphant comeback. Along the way, the team encounters childhood hero Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), who helps them accomplish their goal.

The first problem with this film is its predictable and sappy script written by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. With actors such as Carell and Carrey, it would be expected that the script have a slapstick style of humor. In reality, the film has a feel-good children’s movie vibe with the occasional dirty joke. The intermittent jokes that did land within the script help to entertain, but their general infrequency makes them feel forced.

Adding to the film’s level of mediocrity is Don Scardino’s oddly paced and unspecific directing. Through most of the film, the pace is continually built up for a climactic ending, but the conclusion’s predictability and hasty wrap-up render it anticlimactic. As a result, many of the characters’ story arcs end abruptly, which leaves little time for the ending to resonate.

On the plus side, this film benefits from its all-star cast, specifically the leading three actors: Carell, Carrey and Buscemi. Because of the leads’ reputations as established comedic actors, it comes as no surprise that they all individually create highly amusing characters, which become the most engaging aspect of the film. Carell’s character is a change from his usual, more childish characters, such as Michael Scott in “The Office,” and moves toward an overly sophisticated — to the point of pompous — character. Carrey is wild and brilliantly adds the weird and crazy brand of humor he is known for to his character. Buscemi plays a typical outspoken comedic character and is highly convincing in his onscreen partnership. He complements the arrogance of Carell by playing a more down-to-earth role.

Also of note from the cast is recent Academy Award nominee Arkin, for his portrayal of aged magician Rance Holloway. Arkin, despite have relatively little screen time, is memorable through his quotable lines and nearly perfect comedic timing.

Overall, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” levels out as a combination of the comedic acting talents of its brilliant ensemble as well as the poorly implemented screenplay and direction of its creative team. Though at times the film’s A-list stars are comically incredible, the movie, as a whole, is anything but.

2 Stars

All-star comedic cast fails to carry magic-themed film, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”