James Stewart stars as a railroad man hired to secretly carry a payroll despite his suspected connections to outlaws
Magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have shared a magical friendship since childhood. Decades down the line, their traditional double act isn't as fresh as it was, and punk street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) is threatening to usurp them.
You know you're in for a decent ride with any comedy where the childhood prelude is genuinely enjoyable and not just something you wish they'd get past quick so the real jokes can start. From the moment we see victimised young Burt's tragicomic homelife, we're on his side. It's a necessary sympathetic set up for a lead character we're about to connect with years later, long after he has become a) very successful and b) a complete douche.
Steve Carell is always great at finding the humanity in idiots, wannabes and boors, and in Burt Wonderstone, he's handed a gift part: there's something so inherently silly about professional magicians that adding an ego the size of the house followed by downfall and humiliation seems a comic conceit so clearly destined to be hilarious that it would have been very easy for the filmmakers to assume that was enough on its own.
Instead, they throw in a sweet if predictable journey of self-discovery with plenty of hugging and learning, but fortunately more than enough jokes and plum supporting turns to stop it feeling rote or sentimental. Alan Arkin steals the scenes he’s in as Burt’s Obi Wan, cantankerous retired showman Rance Holloway, while Jim Carrey's antagonist, a competitive master of endurance tests and extreme stunts, is such a wonderfully nasty comic creation that any sentimentality attached to either the romance or bromance plots feels like a much needed respite from the grosser antics of Carrey's self-aggrandising narcissist.
Big silly fun in the Anchorman vein, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is packed with great gags, recognisable characters and performances from comedians at the top of their game. Plus, magicians are inherently laughable. Recommended.
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