Incredible Burt Wonderstone
by Glenn Lovell
Thirty-six-million-plus YouTube fans can’t be wrong. They’ve made “David Blaine’s Street Magic” one of the most popular videos of all time. It’s a hilarious send-up of goateed magician Blaine, known for his scary feats of endurance as well as his studied theatricality.
Without that YouTube video ‒ and those Vegas Merlins Siegfried and Roy ‒ there wouldn’t be an “Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” It’s a lazy pastiche, a one-joke sketch starring Steve Carell as the pompous, womanizing title character, Steve Buscemi as his long-suffering partner Anton Marvelton, and Jim Carrey as their even more narcissistic nemesis, Steve Gray, who’s obviously inspired by Blaine or rather that spoof of Blaine.
Carell and Buscemi, sporting leonine coifs and velvet tuxedos, hold our attention for about 10 minutes. Carrey then takes over. He’s the funniest thing about this enthusiastically tasteless lampoon. His manic street magician — who “holds the world’s record for staring” — is a shameless poseur who specializes in sadomasochistic stunts, such as holding his urine, playing a human piñata and sleeping (badly) on a bed of hot coals.
This “brain rapist,” as he bills himself, is supposed to represent the new generation of magician who creates, ahem, performance art. Wonderstone and Marvelton ‒ high school buddies now at each other’s throats ‒ are the throwback performers who hide their tired sleight-of-hand beneath showroom glitz. Only the crowd on the Strip isn’t buying it any longer and slumping attendance soon finds the team out of the street ‒ Anton taking magic to the destitute, Burt performing in an assisted-living home where he bumps into his childhood hero, 1950s TV magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).
Will the insufferable Burt and the lovable Anton reconcile? Will Burt win over pretty assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) after treating her so shabbily? Will the certifiable Gray finally self-destruct? Will Holloway come out of retirement and reawaken that long-dormant sense of wonder in Burt? And will the tiresome Carell now go scampering back to TV?
You don’t have to be an Amazing Kreskin to guess the answers. And you don’t have to be a Harry Houdini to escape this sorry excuse for a spoof. Just put one foot in front of the other … and walk out.
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE ✮1/2 With Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin. Directed by Don Scardino; scripted by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley. 100 min. Rated PG-13 (for profanity, slapstick violence, off-color humor)