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Film Review: An incredible waste of 'Wonderstone'

March 16, 2013|By Andy Klein
  • Steve Buscemi plays Anton Marvelton and Steve Carell is Burt Wonderstone in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."
Steve Buscemi plays Anton Marvelton and Steve Carell… (Warner Bros. Pictures )

In how many ways is "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" a horrible miscalculation? Pretty much all of them. Yes, it has a couple dozen chuckles and maybe a few true laughs, but that's not enough to sustain this written-by-numbers piece of Hollywood "product."

Given the level of talent involved, this is especially disappointing. Director Don Scardino is fresh off of “30 Rock.” Steve Carell can do (almost) no wrong in my book. Steve Buscemi is one of the greatest characters since the fall of the studio system. And the cast also includes Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Jim Carrey and James Gandolfini.

The story is a Vegas hybrid of the arrogant-Hollywood-prima-donna-falls-from-grace scenario — lovingly satirized in “The Artist” — with “The Sunshine Boys.” Wonderstone (Carell) and partner Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) have been best friends since grade school, when their mutual fascination with stage magic helped rescue them from extreme geek victimhood.

Over the course of 20 years, they've not only achieved the pinnacle of success, they're also ready to tumble off of it. They've been together too long; they constantly quarrel, Burt being clearly more responsible for their troubles than Anton. When Burt breaks up the act, he discovers that he's broke, which is not surprising, except to Burt, given his lavish and tacky lifestyle. (“I have the biggest bed in Las Vegas! It can sleep 24 adults!”) And so the rude, arrogant, coldly womanizing star finds himself living in the Shady Palms Motel and entertaining at an old folks' home.

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One of the residents turns out to be Burt and Anton's original inspiration, Rance Holloway (Arkin, shown in flashback a few times in remarkable young-man makeup). Arkin comes off better than the stars, managing to squeeze a few good moments from a poorly written part. But the performer who comes off best overall is Carrey, who is perfect in his supporting role as ambitious web magician Steve Gray. Gray is basically a masochist/magician whose tricks include holding his urine for 12 days and sleeping on a bed of hot coals.

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