We've seen it before with films like Tropic Thunder and Hot Tub Time Machine — a talented cast can elevate what might otherwise come off as a pretty stupid movie. Such is the case with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which opens Friday at the magnificent Village 8 theatres.
Steve Carell (Anchorman, Bruce Almighty) stars as a Burt Wonderstone, a self-centered superstar magician holding down a big-time (if old-hat) Vegas act with his longtime best buddy Anton Marvelton, played by the always-impressive Steve Buscemi (Trees Lounge, Reservoir Dogs.)
With success having gone to his head long ago, Burt Wonderstone seems more content to bed groupies (after they sign a release form) than bother advancing his magical arts. This leaves the door wide open for renegade street magician Steve Gray, brought to life perfectly by Jim Carey (Ace Ventura, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and soon Wonderstone is on the ropes with nothing left up his sleeve.
When Casino boss (James Gandolfini) starts demanding new tricks from his old magical dogs Wonderstone begins a fall from grace that only a true narcissist could orchestrate. Eventually he meets his childhood hero (Alan Arkin) and learns a bit about real magic (and how to appreciate his leggy and talented ex-stage assistant played by Olivia Wilde) but can the once-incredible Burt Wonderstone pull redemption out of his hat one last time?
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not pure comedic gold but director Don Scardion (TV's 30 Rock) and the bang-up cast manage to conjure up a consistently humourous flick that seems funnier than its PG rating would suggest. The refusal to go overboard with the sappy bits of Burt's redemption is impressive and some decent satirical themes on our continued obsession with extreme one-upmanship mix well with the familiar odd-couple framework. It's no Talladega Nights, but Burt Wonderstone is a stupid movie that watches better than it probably should. (And good luck getting the Steve Miller's classic "Abracadabra" out of your head for the next few days).
Also opening Friday, The Call stars still-smoking-hot-at-age-46 Halle Berry as an ace LAPD 911 operator still reeling from a costly mistake, who suddenly has to try and save a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin from Little Miss Sunshine) who's been kidnapped by a menacing nutjob and stuffed into the trunk of a car. Cue some tense and innovative highway sequences that power down into a bunch of Silence of the Lambs-derived isolated cabin/torture/creepshow stuff.
Directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist, TVs Boardwalk Empire) The Call is not total crap although the first half is much fresher than the last. What starts off as tense thriller dips into seen-it clichés but Halle Berry makes it all worthwhile.
The real download of the week, in case you missed it at last month's Whistler Arts Council Monthly Movie screening, is Searching for Sugarman. Rodriguez was a Detroit folk musician from the '70s who never caught on in North America but is bigger than the Rolling Stones in South Africa, where every thinks he is dead. Rodriguez is actually alive, working construction, and still as cool as the other side of the pillow. This is a feel-good story and the the soundtrack, consisting of epic Rodriguez folk-soul songs from the '70s that listen like a cross of Bill Withers and Bob Dylan, carries the film. Searching For Sugarman took Best Documentary at this year's Oscars and it's one of those rare flicks you can watch with your aging hippy parents and everyone will dig it.