So we've got two of cinema's most popular funny men - Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey - going head to head in the magnificently over-the-top world of rival magicians. We've also got two fantastic character actors (Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin), one implausibly hot up-and-coming actress (Olivia Wilde), all under the watchful eye of director Don Scardino, who brought us some of the funniest episodes of 30 Rock. But don't allow all of this misdirection to fool you, there is a real lack of magic here.
To be fair, things start off pretty well, with Burt Wonderstone (Carrell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) headlining their own show in Doug Munny's (James Gandolfini) Las Vegas Casino. But decades together doing the same tired routine has filled their friendship and partnership with resentment, and the arrival of hot new street magician Steve Gray (Carrey) could possibly result in the final nail in their career's coffin. Can Burt and Anton rediscover their initial love for magic before Gray steals their limelight altogether? Perhaps the bigger question is, do we even care?
Carrell plays Wonderstone as he would if Michael Scott decided to take up a career in magic instead of paper company management. Initially a bit of douchebag, all diva-like antics and rigor-mortis smiles, this is when the movie is at its funniest. But when it comes time for Wonderstone's fall from grace, and he has to lick his wounds and learn his lessons and blah blah blah, the funnies stop coming. Similarly, Carrey should've had a field day with his David Blaine-esque Steve Gray, but instead he's left to do nothing more than put his body through a lot of physical punishment, none of which is particularly funny, although he does get the movie's best line during a children's birthday party.
Wilde is left to do nothing other than look pretty, while Buscemi is completely wasted, disappearing for almost half of the movie, which is disappointing as he has some pretty decent comedy chops when used properly. If you're looking for a funny look at the world of magicians, wait for Gob Bluth to return in the new series of Arrested Development. But if you're looking for a mildly diverting advert for how great Las Vegas is, then The Incredible Burt Wonderstone might be for you.