At one point in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Jim Carrey (street and web magician Steve Gray) says, "Sorry. Guilty pleasure."
Those three words capture the fitful, sometimes engaging entertainment.
Jay Mohr (another magician) says, "It was funny in my head."
That's another relevant line. Some of it manages to get on the screen. But not all of it.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the tale of an ego-maniacal magician, who with a friend from childhood, has a long-running show in a fancy hotel and casino on the strip in Las Vegas.
The long suffering pair of friends and partners comes to a crashing end. Burt (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) - eventually split up because of boredom and vanity and a failed stunt.
Burt loses his job, because he has lost his flair and creativity and is now dated.
Bursting on the scene with knives, fiery coals, and crass, violent contemporaneity is Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose act is titled "Brain Rapist." It's Reality Magic.
He's the present; Burt Wonderstone is the faded, pitiful past.
It's going to be a hard road for Burt to regain anything. When he's entertaining at a home for senior citizens, Burt meets the magician who was his idol as a child. Aged magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) reawakens the forgotten spirit of awe that both understand is the essence of magic.
The best part of The Incredible Burt is the cast. Carell is effective as the smug, supercilious Burt. Carell and Steve Buscemi have chemistry as the fallen friends.
Underrated actress Olivia Wilde has another role that doesn't quite challenge the range of her talent, but as always she is appealing as the female who wants to be a magician.
Alan Arkin and Carell express the film's best moments when their characters share their love of magic.
Jim Carrey is an acquired tastelessness. He gives power and personality to his reckless character.
The director is from tv - Don Scardino, and at times it seems like he's awaiting a commercial break. The opening scenes are bland, and the finale is anti-climactic and without luster. But much of the film has winsome spirit.
The script was written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. Daley plays Dr. Lance Sweets on tv's Bones, and he was on the fabled one-year tv show Freaks and Geeks.
In The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Jim Carrey makes a great freak, and Carell and Buscemi are total geeks.
The Incredible Burt brings bits of Freaks and Geeks into the present.
Is that magic?
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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