It sounds like fun. Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as cheese-whizzy Vegas magicians trying to fight off Jim Carrey and his new kind of wizard act, a Jackass-like exercise in self-abuse that’s an online sensation. Cool, right? Not right. Magicians have been pulling rabbits out of hats for ages. And yet, with all this talent, no one can make a decent script materialize. What screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses) have foisted on the cast, including the great Alan Arkin as a retired magician, shouldn’t happen to anyone, especially an audience.
Carell’s Burt Wonderstone is an epic ass-wipe who mistreats his partner, Anton Marvelton (Buscemi). They were friends as kids; magic was their escape from being bullied. But success – casino mogul Doug Munny (a slumming James Gandolfini) pays them millions – has tainted the wonder. When hubris breaks up the act, Burt must rediscover his inner child. Corny? Much worse.
Enter Steve Gray (Carrey), a street performer who revels in the gross-out – driving a drill into his own skull, letting a crowd beat him with sticks like a human piñata. Are you laughing yet? Carrey seems to be in an entirely different movie. And his is no better.
Director Don Scardino (30 Rock) has no idea how to blend the sweet and the sleazy. So he keeps trotting out more tricks. You can smell the desperation. Near the end, Burt and Anton attempt to make an audience disappear. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone should have no trouble with that one.