Poking fun at old-school magicians, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone pulls the odd chuckle out of the hat, but despite the starry presence of comic headliners Steve Carell and Jim Carrey the film fails to dazzle.
Carell is the not-so-incredible Burt, a permatanned illusionist who’s been churning out the same cheesy Las Vegas magic act with partner Anton (Steve Buscemi) for a decade when the arrival of Carrey’s guerrilla street magician, Steve Gray, knocks them off their perch.
Gray’s wince-inducing stunts – pulling a card from a gash in his cheek, sleeping on hot coals, and so forth – quickly catches the eye of the duo’s hotelier boss (James Gandolfini), but their bid to win a new audience with a David Blaine-type routine in a Perspex box ends disastrously.
From this low point, the film follows a predictably redemptive arc as the arrogant Burt, separated from Anton, is forced to eat humble pie while performing tricks – and rediscovering his love of magic – in a retirement home.
But Horrible Bosses screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley have taken such pains to present Burt as a loathsome, self-deluding jerk that it’s hard to buy into his reformation. That he somehow wins over Olivia Wilde’s put-upon assistant could be his greatest feat of magic, if we at least half-way believed it.
Yet although the film’s plot is even lamer than Burt and Anton’s magic act, you’ll still find here a sprinkling of laughs, including Burt’s drunken attempt to perform the duo’s routine as a solo act and a fine deadpan turn from Alan Arkin as an old-timer with one foot in the grave but a twinkle in his eye.
In cinemas from Friday 15th March.
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