When viewing the trailer of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, one might think that it looks like it might be either incredibly funny or ridiculously stupid, but nowhere in between. In reality, Burt Wonderstone is in between. A solid B comedy, Don Scardino’s film offers a modest supply of laughs, but falls short of its potential.

Steve Carell plays Burt Wonderstone, one of the world’s most beloved magicians. Wonderstone headlines the biggest show on the Las Vegas strip, alongside childhood best friend and sidekick Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). However, Wonderstone’s status is threatened as his show becomes stale, he constantly feuds with Anton, and his arrogance clouds his judgment. Burt is ill-equipped to compete with rising “magician” Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose bizarre and sadistic stunts appeal to a younger audience.

With attendance for Burt and Anton’s show badly slipping, the duo try a wacky stunt that puts the two of them in a glass box elevated above the Las Vegas Strip, absorbing the desert sun’s punishing rays. The trick goes horribly wrong and Burt’s life hits rock bottom. With the help of his one-time assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) – a budding magician herself – Burt attempts to resurrect his career.

While Carell is terrific in plenty of roles from The Office to The 40 Year Old Virgin, his performance as Burt Wonderstone falls flat. Carell seems just a bit understated and lacking in energy to play an over-the-top flamboyant magician. Carell may be versatile, but this is a role better suited for Will Ferrell. While Carell has plenty of funny lines, and is relatively likable, the film would be stronger if it didn’t feel like he was trying to do a Will Ferrell impersonation.

One role that doesn’t fall flat is Jim Carrey’s. This is the first supporting role for Carrey in nearly two decades, and it suits him well. Without the pressure of carrying a film, Carrey is free to come in and do his best Criss Angel impersonation for just a few scenes and it entertains the hell out of you. Whether it’s not urinating for 12 straight days or laying on a bed of hot coals, Carrey’s hilarious antics steal the show every time on he’s on screen.


Carrey helped Carell get his start in feature films with Bruce Almighty back in 2003. Ten years later, it appears that Carell has helped Carrey end his recent losing streak, by proving to him that less is sometimes more.

Also strong in a supporting role is Alan Arkin, who plays legendary magician Rance Holloway. Arkin effectively plays the same old curmudgeon that we’ve seen in films like Little Miss Sunshine and Argo, but it’s a character that’s always fun to see on screen.

Buscemi is somewhat oddly cast as Anton Marvelton, as he looks too old to be Carell’s childhood best friend. But he is still one of the most talented actors working in Hollywood today. He doesn’t have much to work with in this movie, but he’s more reminiscent of Donny in The Big Lebowski than Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire.

Olivia Wilde is a delight to see on screen as Jane. A stunningly beautiful woman, Wilde shows some of her comedic chops with her magic tricks and quick wit. James Gandolfini also does a nice turn as Doug Munny, a Las Vegas hotel magnate who is Burt’s boss.

While The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has plenty of jokes to keep you entertained, the film takes surprisingly few risks. The writing is solid, but there are few memorable lines. With such a high-caliber cast, this movie had the potential to be a truly great comedy. Instead, it just settles in as a workmanlike comedy that is perfectly suited to TBS on that night you decide to stay in and flip through the channels.

Jim Carrey’s crazy stunts stand out from this movie, but the lack of energy from Carell and the relatively benign script prevent Burt Wonderstone from being anything more than Netflix fodder.