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Movie review: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone'

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” doesn't quite do the trick.
BY GENE TRIPLETT Modified: March 14, 2013 at 4:58 pm •  Published: March 15, 2013

Now you see it, now you don't.

The funny stuff, that is.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” succeeds in conjuring some hilarious hocus-pocus one minute, then fails to pull any hilarity from its hat the next, depending on who is on-screen at any given moment.

Even under the direction of Emmy-winning Don Scardino (“30 Rock”) and working from a script by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (“Horrible Bosses”), Steve Carell can't seem to conjure much in the way of sympathy or solid laughs from the title character, a long-established Las Vegas magician with an overblown ego, a soured relationship with his performing partner and one-time best friend Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) and an outdated act that's losing its marquee glow on the glittering Vegas Strip.

Carell is relentlessly one-note, unfunny and unconvincing as a self-centered jerk, in sharp contrast to Oklahoma City's own Mason Cook, 12, who, in flashback scenes, plays Burt as a bullied kid who turned to magic for self-esteem and found friendship with nerdy Anton (played as a boy by Luke Vanek), another young aspiring illusionist.

The real mirth materializes when a startlingly muscular, long-haired Jim Carrey seizes scenes as guerrilla street magician Steve Gray, who shuns glitzy theater venues in favor of ambush performances in outdoor settings, drawing crowds as much for his wild-eyed charisma as his outrageous, pain-defying physical stunts (sleeping all night on hot coals, holding his urine for days at a time, cutting holes in his skin to retrieve disappeared objects, etc).

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