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Doug's Take: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone'

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 12:20 p.m. MDT

Jim Carrey as Steve Gray in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." (New Line Cinema) Jim Carrey as Steve Gray in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." (New Line Cinema)

At the beginning of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," two nerdy children find friendship and refuge from a distinct lack of popularity and bullying when they discover the joys of magic.

The future Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton immerse themselves in perfecting and refining the tricks of the famous Rance Holloway, whose magic kit, complete with VHS instructional video, has fueled their passion for the art of illusion.

Here, the filmmakers flash forward to find Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi starring as Burt and Anton on the verge of launching their act at a major Las Vegas casino showroom. Rapidly, they become the hit of the strip, complete with their own Burt and Anton Theater. This movie shows that nobody can make a character so ridiculously over the top better than Steve Carell.

As the story continues, stardom starts to erode the friendship and the quality of their show as Burt becomes more egocentric and lackadaisical. Attendance starts to dip and the boys are about to be dropped by the casino manager, Doug, played by James Gandolfini. To make matters worse, a new street magician is dazzling and shocking the Strip with his outrageous and masochistic stunts. Jim Carrey stars as Steve Grey, who will do anything — and I mean anything — for shock and awe.

In one last desperate attempt to regain their popularity, Burt and Anton stage a high-profile stunt that not only fizzles, but is a major embarrassment. The partnership dissolves, and Burt especially careens into a downward spiral.

Reduced to doing children's parties and performing at retirement homes, Burt begins to find himself when he discovers his old hero, Rance Holloway, wonderfully portrayed by Alan Arkin, is a retiree in the home. That’s not all. His former on-stage assistant, the lovely Jane, played to perfection by Olivia Wilde, has a grandmother in the home as well. Rance and Jane have a renewing effect on our hero. Could a comeback be in the making?

At this point in the film, I was beginning to fade. The drag factor and silliness had just about lost me. As Burt begins to get his mojo back along with the infusion of Arkin’s great talents, I began to re-engage. Along with that, Olivia Wilde finally gets a chance to shine, Buscemi returns, and a chemistry gels as the four conjurers pull off the stunt of the century. when you see the ins and outs of pulling off the stunt — well, it had me laughing out loud.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is not great cinema by any stretch, but the last 15 minutes really saved the movie. Still, it gets just 2 ½ stars and is rated PG-13.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company