the incredible burt wonderstone

Art & Culture
A hotdog can be a wonderful thing. If the bun is light, the mustard bright yellow and dog itself salty and free from gristle, thats a good hotdog. Only some kind of arsehole would complain because it wasnt a filet mignon. So it is with dumb American comedies. Done just right, they can be perfectly entertaining confection, but their quality varies wildly and, like hotdogs, its almost impossible to tell, before you bite into them, how good, or bad, theyre going to be. Between 21 Jump Street (the funniest film of 2012) and Hangover 2 (the unfunniest film of 2012) are mere details, but you might as well say that the only difference between a hotdog thats incredible and one thats just inedible is the recipe.
So Im sorry report that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone doesnt cut the mustard even as a good bad film. And its sort of a surprise, because the premise looks great: we meet magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) as bullied children for whom magic is a means to make friends and avoid wedgies. Thirty years later they have a residency at Ballys casino. While Anton is as faithful a friend as ever, Burt has become a jaded, sex-addicted narcissist, with an ego big enough to stand out on the Vegas strip. Hes riding for a fall, which arrives in the form of edgy street magician, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose act seems to have more to do with self-harm than showmanship.
To survive Burt is going to have to learn some hard lessons about friendship and humility. Which is lovely, but really, this being a comedy, it would be great if it was funny as well. Sadly the jokes here are too thinly spread, and the characters, with the exception of Carrey as David Blane-alike Gray, just arent quite funny enough to fill in the gaps. Steve Buscemi phones in his performance as Anton and James Gandolfini is just slightly too believable as the owner of Ballys, the old casino at the unfashionable end of the Strip. About the best you can say for this film as that its not sexist, homophobic, racist or body-conformist in the way bad dumb comedies have a tendency to be.
If there is a lesson to be learnt here it has nothing to do with either magic or friendship. Its that any movie which features the name of one or more Vegas casino and/or footage of a Vegas show is not actually a film at all, but an advert for Las Vegas paid for by the Las Vegas city authority. And maybe this perhaps explains why, even if it all looks good on paper, there is no magic to be found here.  

William Fowler