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‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ review: Magically manages not to be horrible

Steve Carrel and Steve Buscemi star in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Steve Carrel and Steve Buscemi star in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Perhaps calling him incredible is a bit of an overstatement, but Burt Wonderstone is not that bad.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is the story of a pair of aging magicians, Burt Wonderstone (played by Steve Carrel) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) trying to find their place in a changing world of magic thanks to Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). He is a Las Vegas street magician who is becoming the new face of magic thanks to his over-the-top stunts and a growing following for his television show “Brain Rapist.”

What “Burt Wonderstone” has going for it is an interesting nugget of an idea. It essentially works as a satire on the whole culture of magic. Carrey’s character is pretty much a combination of David Blaine, noted by some of his stunts; such as spending the night on hot coals, and Criss Angel, using “Brain Rapist” instead of “Mind Freak.”

Personally, I have never been the biggest Jim Carrey fan. He generally is hit or miss for me, but as the antagonist in this case, he succeeds.

The star of the film is Carrel though in a role he could do in his sleep at this point. There is nothing particularly inventive about the Wonderstone character, but if you are a fan of Carrel’s style you will not be disappointed with this performance.

With both Carrey and Carrel, it is akin to hearing your favorite band play their best-known songs. There is nothing new or groundbreaking about them anymore, but they know how to play them well. These are standard performances from two actors located perfectly in their comfort zones. There are lots of screams from Carrey and lots of incoherent blubbering from Carrel, but it works.

The rest of the cast plays it safe as well. Buscemi knows how to play straight man to Carrel, but the story calls for him to disappear for large segments of the story, so he does not get to offer much more to the role than that. Alan Arkin plays Rance Holloway, the magician that inspired Wonderstone to take up magic in the first place. The role calls for a crotchety old man, and Arkin can play that to a tee.

The beautiful Olivia Wilde plays Jane, a magician’s assistant and aspiring magician in her own right. Her role is there for the sole purpose of having “the girl” in the story, because all movies have to have at least one pretty girl who may or may not fall for the main character. However, if you are going to add an actress to a movie just for the sake of having “the girl” in the story then Wilde is certainly not a bad choice.

As for the writing, John Francis Daley (Sam from Freaks and Geeks) and John M. Goldstein deliver a script that has flashes of brilliance. However, it is not as good as their lasting outing 2011’s “Horrible Bosses.” “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is nowhere near as dark and edgy as that, but what it does have is not half bad.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” certainly is not reinventing the wheel, but it is good for a few solid laughs, which is plenty good enough for a March comedy.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language. Running time: 101 minutes. B-

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