Characters in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” amuse on their own but their interplay is nothing alchemical. What’s revealed between Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) is trite: the one-time middle-school magicians will star in Las Vegas, split up and then reunite. Typical is the gay tease in their spangle-and-sequin routine with the line: “We always knew there was something a little different about our friendship.” Little occurs in their respective arcs: Burt is brought low by headliner hubris; Anton rebels against his abuse as second banana. Comeuppance leads to comeback. Cue a Cambodian plant extract that lets the duo stupefy their audiences for a disappearing act that surpasses the one by John Malkovich’s mentalist in “The Great Buck Howard” (2008). Screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley craft easy sentiment about magicians who lost the magic after doing too many “impossible” tricks of “impossibility.” Re-enchanted and re-enthused, the showmen recuperate their childhood careers at a boy’s tenth birthday party. The film’s affection for the magic biz is charming. Acts on the side include Rick the Implausible, the Brain Rapist who power-drills into his own frontal lobe and an old-schooler who pulls a deboned pigeon from a salt shaker. With Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, Jim Carrey, Jay Mohr, Michael Bully Herbig. 101m. (Bill Stamets)
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” opens Friday.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.