“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is well served by Steve Carell’s idiot bluster, showing that Burt Wonderstone is due for a dose of comeuppance. But the story of the magician in decline flags about two-thirds of the way in, because there’s nothing sympathetic or redeemable about Burt Wonderstone to keep audiences engaged.
Jim Carrey has delivered more than his share of great performances. But this undercover act wasn't one of them.
"The Call" _ Long a bit player in movies, the 911 dispatcher finally gets a starring role. It would seem long overdue, since Halle Berry is apparently among their ranks. She's an emergency operator in Los Angeles, where the trauma of a first kidnapping case has forced her to hang up the headset. But, having shifted to a trainer position, she's lured back for a second kidnapping call when a rookie dispatcher can't handle the frightening pleas from a taken teenager (Abigail Breslin) trapped in a car's trunk. Director Brad Anderson ("Transsiberian") working from the simple, high concept screenplay by Richard D'Ovidio, ably cuts between the fraught strategizing at the call center and the frantic police pursuit of the kidnapper (Michael Eklund). The film dials up a shallow thrill ride, but one efficiently peppered with your typical "don't go in there!" moments. But what once was usual for Hollywood _ reliable, popcorn-eating genre frights _ isn't so much anymore. A rudimentary, almost old-fashioned 90-minute escape, the film achieves its low ambitions. R for violence, disturbing content and some language. Running time: 95 minutes. Two stars out of four.
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" _ The only incredible thing here is the way this comedy makes Steve Carell so thoroughly and irreparably unlikable. In a film about magic tricks, this is the most difficult feat of all. Even when Carell is playing characters who are nerdy ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") or needy ("Crazy, Stupid, Love") or clueless (TV's "The Office") or just plain odd ("Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"), there's usually an inherent decency that shines through and makes him seem relatable, vulnerable, human. None of those qualities exists within Burt Wonderstone, a selfish and flashy Las Vegas magician who once ruled the Strip alongside his longtime friend and partner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), but now finds his act has grown outdated and unpopular. Even within the confines of a comedy sketch, where he probably belongs, Burt would seem one-dimensional and underdeveloped with his hacky jokes and tacky clothes. Stretched out to feature length, the shtick becomes nearly unbearable _ until, of course, the movie doles out its obligatory comeuppance, followed by redemption, and goes all soft and nice. By then it's too little, too late. Jim Carrey gives it his all, as always, as the up-and-coming gonzo street magician who threatens Burt's career, but Olivia Wilde gets little more to do than serve as the supportive "girl" as Burt's assistant. PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language. 101 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
Alan Arkin is Steve Carell's idol, in reality and in their new movie.
The only incredible thing about "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" is that way it makes Steve Carell so thoroughly and irreparably unlikable. In a film about magic tricks, this is the most difficult feat of all.
Highlights of Hollywood's 2013 schedule (release dates are subject to change):
Dave Barry's comic novels read like screenplays. His books thus take very little adaptation to bring them to the local cineplex. Mr. Barry's first novel, "Big Trouble," came out in 1999 and was turned into a theater-ready, star-studded spectacle by 2001. (The release was delayed due to the movie's suddenly controversial plot, involving a plane hijacking and a nuclear bomb, by the Sept. 11 terror attacks.)
"The Office" will be closing next year. Producer Greg Daniels said Tuesday that the NBC comedy will end its run after the upcoming ninth season.