If you happened to wander into a movie theater to see “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” expecting grade-A comedy writing and acting, then it’s likely you were upset five minutes into the feature. Luckily for me, I went in anticipating more than just a few moments of face-cringing, and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. The film flops around for its far-too-long 100-minute run time and still barely finds room to breathe amid a barrage of stale jokes and witless character development.
Steve Carell stars at the titular hotheaded magician Burt Wonderstone, a fading professional who, along with his trusty partner Anton (Steve Buscemi), is getting kicked out of Vegas to make room for rising start Steve Grey (Jim Carrey), whose new TV show “Brain Rapist” is reviving magic through its ridiculous stunts, such as a human piñata and holding in urine for a full week. In a feeble attempt to win back their viewership, Burt and Anton stage a lackluster stunt that splits their friendship and leaves Burt fending for himself for the first time in decades. Sound generic yet? Throw in Olivia Wilde, who does her service as the assistant slash potential love interest slash eye candy just as well as Buscemi performs his duty as a weak sidekick and you have yourself a well-rounded box office bomb.
Director Don Scardino, who has worked on numerous TV shows and won an Emmy for “30 Rock,” should probably consider sticking with the small screen. In addition to the stale script, there’s a significant lack of style in the film that just makes the life of the piece bleed out before the audience. Written by the team behind “Horrible Bosses,” one can only imagine what childish laughter was going on behind the scenes as these screenwriters came up with some of the worst jokes in recent comedic memory. It’s not that the movie lacks comedy. It actually has plenty thanks to Jim Carrey, and it is a joy to be able to genuinely laugh at him again after such a long dry spell. The problem is that when the jokes fall flat, they fall into the Grand Canyon of worthless material.
But the most inherent problem of “Burt Wonderstone” is, without a doubt, the casting of Steve Carell. Wonderstone is a conceited dirtbag who can’t get past looking at his own image in the mirror, and unfortunately, this role is miles away from anything suitable for the man who will always be remembered as Michael Scott from “The Office.” Scott was the perfect role for Carell. A mix of sweet and sour but always a gentle soul at heart, he knew how to strike a chord with the viewer while also making them laugh uncontrollably. Burt Wonderstone is the antithesis of Michael Scott, and it hurts the film to see Carell try to play a pompous asshole. He just can’t do it! It’s not in his nature! The second he walks on screen, all believability is pushed away; instead, a cheap foil of a good film is presented to the audience.
I wish I could say that “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is worth your time. I wish I could get my money back from the theater. I wish that Steve Carell would take roles suited for his ability and that Jim Carrey would continue his return to the Ace Ventura days of comedy. I wish.