Dave's Rating:


Making comedy disappear.

Someday, somebody -- not me -- is going to compile every blandly mediocre movie ever made into a giant Physician's Desk Reference-style book called Films to Watch When You're Sick on the Couch and Half in the Bag on Nyquil. That book will contain all the titles that have ever played endlessly on cable a year after their theatrical release, titles you can mostly ignore even as you ostensibly watch them. You'll fall asleep for random 12-minute-long chunks of their running time but never really lose track of the story. Stuff like A Lot Like Love will be in that book. Did you see A Lot Like Love? You might have. I think I did, but I had to go search for it on IMDB to remember who was in it. Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, by the way. You're welcome. I forget what happens to them in the film but I'm guessing they fall in love at some point.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone will be in the chapter about comedies that provide light and sporadic chuckling but nothing to set off a coughing spasm. It's cruel to hate-blast a movie like this. It means no harm. It's sweet and inoffensive, its heart in the right place as it gently lampoons the David Blaines, Cris Angels, Siegfrieds and Roys of the world while treating their craft with affection. Briefly: Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are old-school, flashy, Las Vegas magicians in velvet costumes whose joint career and friendship disintegrates amidst fighting and declining show attendance. Their nemesis, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), is a masochistic street magician with a TV show called Brain Rapist. With help from their assistant (Olivia Wilde) and a revered illusionist (Alan Arkin), Burt and Anton rekindle their passion for magic and mend their friendship. Yeah, spoilers, I know. But seriously, nothing in this movie's 100 minutes is going to captivate your sense of wakefulness long enough to care. I just did you a favor.

There are a series of featherweight laughs, arriving approximately five minutes apart. Carell's brief Nomi Malone-style dance will make Showgirls fans think they're about to see something more clever than it is. Buscemi and Arkin have very little to do but Carrey is satisfyingly creepy-funny as he drives nails into his own skull. Olivia Wilde underplays it all and she winds up an amusing counterpoint to the imperious Carell's nonstop ego-monster shouting. But none of those mini-laughs stick. Unlike great comedy that lodges itself in your consciousness and turns you into the guy who annoys his friends with movie quotes, there's nothing to cling to here. Nothing to remember for later use. It'll help you pass the time until your flu wears off, but you'll be hard-pressed to recount the experience to anyone who hasn't seen it. And eventually you'll have to look it up online to remember who was in it.


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