Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The: Scardino’s Tale of Vegas Magicians, Starring Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi

In theory, a film costarring the two Steves, Carell and Buscemi, is appealing as both actors are likable, and one (Buscemi) has seldom played a lead role on the big screen.

But, alas, this tale of two Vegas superstar magicians, Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) is sharply uneven, ending up being just like its thematic target, stale. Directed by Don Scardino as a TV episodic sitcom, the comedy is nothing but incredible or wonderful, to borrow from its title.

World-premiering at the SXSW Film Fest in Austin, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” will be released by Warner this Friday, March 15,

Struggling with finding the right tone, the zig-zaggy screenplay is penned by Jonathan Goldstein snf John Francis Daley, who did a better, funnier job with “Horrible Bosses,” based on a story by Chad Kultgen, Tyler Mitchell, Goldstein and Daley.

For years, Burt and Anton have been rich and successful, though lately the duo has grown to loathe each other, with the public image of friendship turning into an illusion and deception, to say the least.

Not helping matter is the new aggressive competition they face from guerilla street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey, over the top), whose cult following grows with each outrageous act, to the point of making the douple’s show seem too old, too familiar, too stale.

Refusing to give up fame, status, and fortune, they feel there’s still a chance they can save their act—onstage and off—-if only Burt can get back to his roots, namely, refind what made him love magic in the first place.

The comedy is yet another variation of the Odd Couple, vet performers and one-time best friends, assisted by Jane (Olivia Wilde) as their glamorous magic assistant, Jane.

All three leads are talented comedians, displaying here their speialized skills: Carrey’s elasticity of body and face and excessive energy contrast nicely with Carell’s subtlety and underacting.

The trio is supported by an equally impressive secondary cast—-but to what effect? In underdeveloped parts, that only begin to scratch their range, Alan Arkin stars as old-school illusionist Rance Holloway, and James Gandolfini as casino mogul Doug Munny.

If the movie is too fractured, even by standards of mainstream Hollywood comedies, if may be a function of the narrative and also the origins of its director, Don Scardino *Emmy Award winner for TV’s “30 Rocks”).

Structurally, there are too many repeitions of ideas and recyclings of similar jokes (sort of variations on a limited number of themes). In an ideal market, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” would have made a funny and entertaining half-and-hour sitcom.