Back in the early 1980s, a young boy who found himself without friends and tormented by bullies was about to have an unexpected and life-changing experience. Alone on his birthday, the young boy opens his one gift from his mom and is delighted to find a magic kit and instructional video by reknowned magician Lance Holloway (Alan Arkin). His early attempts at magic gain him a new friend and the two become inseparable through their love and practice of magic.
Flash forward, and the two friends are now all the rage in the world of magic. Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell), and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), have packed their theater night after night with a dazzling mix of music, showmanship, and magic. Not only does this keep their boss (James Gandolfini) happy, but it allows Burt to enjoy all of the perks of being a Las Vegas headliner: fame, fortune, and women.
Ten years later it’s a different story for the two friends. While they still have a very popular show, creative differences between the two have arisen and Burt has become a very pompous and self-centered individual. He treats those around him with utter disdain and has driven off numerous assistants due to his behavior. The latest to join his group is Jane (Olivia Wilde), whom Burt sees as nothing more than a person to assist on stage to make him look good, and to succumb to his charms after the show. When a new street magician named (Jim Carrey), starts to become garner attention with his new and shocking routines, Burt and Anton’s routine is suddenly looking very stale in comparison. Anton devises a new trick to be played out in public that he hopes will propel the duo to a fresh and hip image, but sadly things go horribly wrong and the best friends have a bitter falling out. Literally.
Burt attempts to go on with the show alone, but his ego will not allow him to acknowledge the fact that Anton was a big part of the show and that the act depends on both of them. With his career suddenly over and with no money, Burt hits rock bottom and must find a way to regain his former glory. In doing so he will have to reinvent himself and undergo a magical transformation of his own.
The movie is an absolute delight and is so much more enjoyable and funnier than the trailers imply. Carrell has pulled off his best movie since “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, and infuses Burt with a likeability and sense of wonder despite his narcissism. Buscemi and Arkin are great in their supporting roles and Carrey seems to be enjoying every minute of playing the film’s bad guy as he gives a performance that while restrained when compared to some of his more over the top roles works very well with the ensemble cast.
The film is an unexpected find as it is a comedy that does not pander to base humor to get laughs and instead uses situational comedy and the characters to tell a charming story sprinkled with some solid laughs along the way, especially in the final moments of the film.
4 out of 5