Film review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (15)
Steve Carell manages something he hasn't in ages – to be funny – in this amiable and chucklesome comedy of warring stage magicians.
He plays the arrogant, perma-tanned Burt, one half of a Las Vegas magic act with Anton (Steve Buscemi), friends since boyhood but now fraying badly and losing audiences by the score. Their spangled, tacky showmanship looks ever more outmoded next to the edgy street performance of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) who specialises in endurance stunts, the more grotesque the better: lying on hot coals, drilling a hole through his head etc.
In an attempt to keep up – and to appease their increasingly disaffected casino employer (James Gandolfini) – Burt and Anton try the David Blaine trick of inhabiting a glass box raised on high, with predictable consequences. The script (by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley) doesn't play many variations on the fall-from-grace story of showbiz losers, and yet it maintains a winning flow of laughs.
One superb sequence has Burt flailing through his act solo after his split from Anton, unable to adjust to the fact that Anton's not there, so entrenched is their routine in his head. Carrey, also funnier than he's been in ages, does a weirdly demented schtick while on that bed of coals, alternately snoring and screaming.
Best of all is Alan Arkin as old-school illusionist Rance Holloway, whose tricks first inspired Burt as a youth. His criticism of his pupil's decline is wonderfully succinct – "Your patter is boring and sad. You've got no joy in yourself" – and his withering looks of disapproval are a little masterclass on their own. It's daft, and charming.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre