Movie review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

From the March 14, 2013 edition

Not only is “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” an incredible disappointment, it’s actually lowered my expectations for one of my most anticipated movies of the summer.

If Steve Carell is following the Will Ferrell career path of cookie-cutter paycheck movies that barely remind people how funny you can actually be, what does that say about the “Anchorman” sequel?

The incredibly likable Carell magically transforms himself into an incredibly unlikable character. The few moments he gets really unhinged are the only real laughs in the film.

Burt Wonderstone (Carell) has taken his boyhood love of magic and turned it into a career. He shares a Vegas stage with his lifelong best pal Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) — think Siegfried & Roy sans tigers.

But their act is woefully dated, and their crowds are dwindling. Enter Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), a next-gen rock star magician who focuses on acts of endurance (like, er, not peeing for a really long time) — think Criss Angel/David Blaine.

To follow the Ferrell analogy, this is Carell’s “Blades of Glory” — a thin comedy that tries to wring too many laughs from funny costumes.

Wonderstone is a self-involved and completely un-self-aware a-hole in the Ron Burgundy vein, but that character doesn’t really adhere to what Carell does best. The movie won’t give itself over to total farce, instead attempting unwisely to emotionally engage us. Poor Olivia Wilde — breezy and charming as a wannabe magician — gets stuck as the unlikeliest of love interests.

Carrey mugs his way through his Blaine/Angel hybrid, turning on the douchebaggery for laughs. It’s good for a chuckle or three, but aren’t the guys he’s lampooning just as passe now as the Vegas disappearing act?

“Burt Wonderstone” is a perfect example of a classic Hollywood illusion, and I’ll let you in on the trick. Movies that look good on paper and are slated to come out in March — a typical dumping ground for lesser movies that won’t survive the competition of busier seasons — generally kinda suck. Ta-da!