Goofy wigs are always a bad omen, especially when they’re the centerpiece of a film. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
seems pitched by a really good wig-maker who thought it would be hysterical to plop ridiculous feathery rugs on Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi, a post-grunge one on Jim Carrey, a scraggly old-man one on Alan Arkin, and an intentionally fake-looking one on Olivia Wilde. Those wigs sure look funny. Too bad nothing else is. Which is a bloody shame, given the premise of Carell and Buscemi as ultra-corny, velvet-leotarded Vegas magicians who engage in a war of one-upmanship with Carrey’s Chris Angel-esque street magician. The film shows signs of life as a look at how traditional showmanship suffers in an age of rapid-fire Internet trickery, with seasoned pros like Jay Mohr and James Gandolfini (in bad wigs) representing the old-school Vegas mentality as endangered. Alas, the film makes the fatal mistake of insisting on audience investment in an unlikable character’s redemption. Carell is a master of making viewers sympathize with brutishly inconsiderate characters, as evidenced by his weirdly tender suffering on The Office
. But Carell’s Wonderstone is just a horrible human being: sexist, racist, rapey, cruel, egomaniacal, crude, selfish and destructive. Yet when his life hits the skids, we’re asked to forget nearly all that came before. Leaps in goodwill could be forgiven if Wonderstone
contained some real chuckles. Alas, pretty much everything falls flat after 20 minutes. This is a film about magicians without a single trick up its sleeve, a flick that never pulls back the curtain or aspires to be anything more than a lazy-ass comedy in which the wigs and sequins do the talking. But they sure are funny wigs.