Steve Carell is a certified comedy star, but his career hasn’t been all that stellar of late. Take his latest film, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” It’s supposed to be a satire on magicians and the entire overdone and over-hyped prestidigitation industry on TV and in Las Vegas—especially the over-the-top performers who make entire elephants and the Eiffel Tower itself disappear in front of televiewers’ amazed and unbelieving eyes!
Since that entire syndrome is eminently spoofable, we look forward to Carell’s jaunty jibes—but, alas, not enough are forthcoming. He and his costars pay too much attention to cheesy characterization and winking asides, and not enough to real humor that makes viewers actually laugh out loud!
In fact, the film sometimes feels more like a documentary about today’s “street magic” acts that are now clicking with televiewers, especially when guest star Jim Carrey weighs in with his stunningly masochistic depiction of a street magician who stops at nothing to astound and shock his audience.
We admire Carrey for being totally committed to his new character, going as far as drilling a hole in his skull to transfix his fans! —But, is it funny? It’s an extreme case study of the new phenomenon, but we’re so stunned and transfixed—that we “forget” to laugh!
Memo to Carell and Carrey and all other comedy stars who mistake extreme spoofing for actual humor: When you’re doing a comedy, it’s supposed to be funny. And, when it isn’t funny often enough, not all of the drilling and diddling in the world can make up for the slack.
It really is a pity that this film isn’t funny enough, because its stars are supposed to be icons of comedy, who should know better and indeed have done much better in the past.
The predictability of the storytelling is part of the problem: The movie is about a popular tandem of ace magicians who “rule” Vegas for decades—until Carell’s character takes their success for granted and coldbloodedly fires his partner (Steve Buscemi). He’s so full of himself that he’s sure that he can make it as a solo act—but, he can’t.
So, the rest of the movie focuses on his decline, and how he’s upstaged by the new magicians, led by Carrey’s demented character. Yes, there’s a “moral” to this downbeat plotting, but it’s too predictable and stolid to be genuinely bemusing.
Worse, after the film has made its “moral” point, it has a hard time figuring out how it’s supposed to end! Of course, at the final fade, the comedy tandem is reunited and “forgiven” by their fans, but we see it coming a mile away—so the thrill is gone!