The Reel: ‘Burt Wonderstone’ packs in the laughs with an all-star cast, but it could have been better


Ben Conniff

You’ve seen the ads on TV. By now, you’re probably familiar with goofy lines such as “I doubt you’ve seen anyone spend the night… on hot coals,” or “Your skin makes me cry.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the stupid “glass box” stunt that clearly ends in failure.

I bet you brushed this movie off and said, “All the funny parts are in the commercials.” If that’s the case, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is a consistently hilarious, heartfelt comedy starring Steve Carell (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”), Steve Buscemi (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”), Jim Carrey (“Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”), Olivia Wilde (“The Change-Up”) and Alan Arkin (“Argo”).

It chronicles the life of a superstar Las Vegas magician named Burt Wonderstone (Carell) as he rises to fame alongside partner Anton Marvelton (Buscemi), has a fall from grace at the hands of edgy street performer Steve Gray (Carrey), and takes a shot at redemption with the help of both his former assistant (Wilde) and childhood hero (Arkin).

It’s essentially the same riches-to-rags-then-back-to-riches formula we’ve seen a hundred times in movies like “Talladega Nights” and “Anchorman.”

Like those films, “Burt Wonderstone” is paper-thin in plot but jam-packed with laughs, not all of which are dispensed in the previews.

The all-star cast is great, and the ending just might evoke a childlike sense of wonder and make you believe in the power of magic.

At least until the real trick is revealed.

Even then, you’ll still be doubled-over with laughter. Just make sure you stick around for it during the first half of the credits.

As always, Steve Carell and Jim Carrey are a blast to watch in their respective roles. It’s just a shame that, with four screenwriters, they aren’t given a script with quite enough bite to make it a classic.

“Burt Wonderstone” could’ve been so much more if it allowed its capable stars the longer leash of an R-rating. As it stands though, the film is still solidly, consistently funny for a PG-13 comedy.

In addition to the fine performances from Carell and Carrey, Olivia Wilde is charming as Jane, Burt’s assistant and love interest who has a few tricks of her own. And the lovable Alan Arkin makes an endearing turn as Burt’s childhood inspiration Rance Holloway.

With such a solid cast, consistent laughs, and several moments that illicit a sense of childlike wonder, it’s easy to ignore the film’s shortcomings in terms of plot.

However, you can’t help but feel slightly let down by the film’s lack of comedic edge with major players like Steve Carell and Jim Carrey involved.

I wouldn’t call it “incredible,” but I still had a blast with “Burt Wonderstone”, and I think you will too. Grab a date or a group of friends and head out to see this movie.