The laughs disappear from memory too quickly, except Jim Carrey’s moments. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a showcase for Steve Carell, that comic actor who seems to either play schmucks or guys who are all too pompously in touch with their own aura, here as a headline magician who is the latter. He has a decades-long gig like Siegfried & Roy at Bally’s in Las Vegas with childhood friend and partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi, who is so suck-it-up schmucky that I had an unintentional smile plastered on my face). The new generation rival is magician Steve Gray (Carrey), whose performance art is the stuff of sadomasochism – holding his pee in for 12 days, sleeping on a bed of hot coals overnight, a hidden card trick that requires him to cut open his face. Burt Wonderstone is too self-satisfied to realize that he is doing old mechanical shtick that needs updating.
The mistake of the movie is letting the Wonderstone character behave as the vain prima donna for too long, his change of heart is what comes off as too quick and Abracadabra. His character has worked Bally’s for so long that he doesn’t understand how the world outside of the hotel operates anymore, such as the price for things. But the narcissism! He beds different women every night, believes he is the God of them, says to women the words “have sex with me” as a mantra. I bleated a fainted chuckle or two, but at the same time I wondered why SEX had to be a component of a family comedy that is pulling in the under 12-year old crowd at the box office this weekend. I feel embarrassed for the kids who won’t get the sex jokes. Olivia Wilde as Jane is pretty and a fairly classy good girl magician who unconvincingly teams up with Burt, but she gets subjected to the token love interest role requirement. And a condom joke.
Wonderstone gets a taste of modesty again when he works at an old folks’ home, coincidentally meeting Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin, nicely cast), the once prolific Vegas magician whose VHS magic tape inspired him in his early life. Wonderstone fashions a humble comeback (Steve Gray stonewalls him at a birthday party show), and he stages the ultimate “audience disappearing trick” that itself is preposterous… and only a little amusing.
Buscemi’s I-can’t-believe-I-get-paid-to-do-this face struck up the biggest smiles for me, and I might have even laughed out loud on two occasions at his sycophant-lackey nature. There’s not too much else that’s cute about “Incredible” as I had hoped, but the naughty side of me responded wide-eyed to the sick and wilder aspects of Jim Carrey.
98 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
COMEDY / EASY-GOING / WEEKEND INDIE MATINEE
Film Cousins: “The Geisha Boy” (1958); “Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan” (1997); “Scoop” (2006); “The Great Buck Howard” (2008).