Las Vegas and magic go hand in hand. Both deal with the art of illusion with the suspense in receiving the ultimate pay-off palatable. This is why so many Vegas set productions have featured magic and mystical happenings. ‘Wonderstone’ has plenty of those within its decent comedy. Vegas is still portrayed as an ode to ultra-kitsch tackiness although the trick is in unearthing its true manner behind the facade.
Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) are one of Las Vegas’ biggest magic acts. When an accident forces Anton to retire, Burt attempts to go it alone. Unfortunately his efforts are unsuccessful, especially when he finds himself competing with extreme street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). Desperate to please his casino owner boss Doug (James Gandolfini), Burt aims to reunite with Anton and restore their reputation as Vegas’ finest dazzling partnership.
Those expecting the magic of originality with ‘Wonderstone’ may be disappointed. It follows a familiar path with the various obstacles its characters face routine. What it lacks in that area it more than makes up for in the performer’s enthusiasm. The leads elevate the predictable script with some fine characterisation bringing life to their roles. As Burt struggles to adapt to changing tastes, re-discovering his love for his art is amusingly conveyed by Carell’s dead-pan delivery.
‘Wonderstone’ has a lot of heart without making it too saccharine. The character development is handled effectively with the comedy more reliant on genuine wit than crudity. This makes for an easy-flowing film making the most of its premise. The street-scapes of Vegas look suitably spectacular, often mirroring the gargantuan task Burt has in returning from the professional abyss.
A fun, amiable slice of fluff ‘Wonderstone’ does the required job. It isn’t a genre world-beater but there are plenty of laughs to be had – which is a trick not many comedies know how to perform.
Rating out of 10: 7
Comedic anthology films are a rare beast. ‘The Kentucky Fried Movie’ and ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ are a few examples of the ‘anything for a laugh’ genre few tackle. Perhaps ‘Movie 43’ provides a reason as its disjointed mirth making conjures staggered amusement rather than ongoing laughs. Not that those worshipping at the altar of political correctness would find much to smile about as it skewers such notions with dubious glee.
Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid) is a disturbed screen-writer desperate to have his script made. Pitching to exasperated film executive Griffin (Greg Kinnear), he is mortified when his ‘sure thing’ ideas are soundly rejected. Determined to make him listen to his script, Charlies holds Griffin at gun-point. What he hears are a series of stories so ridiculous no-one in their right mind would make them.
Any film featuring killer Leprechauns and randy angels isn’t going to win an Oscar. It may find an audience who love endless bodily function gags and sex jokes that would make the cast of the Carry On movies blush. Occasionally a modicum of inspired comedy surfaces although with multiple stories helmed by multiple directors the hit and miss ratio eventually settles into the latter category. Their attempt in linking the overall narrative theme of the sexualisation of society often misses the mark.
Even more surprising is the sight of an array of big name stars going beyond what their presumed huge pay packets required. The likes of Halle Berry, Richard Gere and Hugh Jackman may never seem the same again to fans with their bravery in participating in lewd antics admirable. They forge past the realms of bad taste although Quaid and Kinnear are the best performers in an amusing segment giving Hollywood’s shallowness a serve. It’s a shame most of the sequences are so inept in their execution with humour being more potent if supplied with genuine wit.
Those easily offended by foul language and nudity should avoid ‘Movie 43’ like the plague. It has a constant stream of them with its aim in shocking audiences with a farrago of outrageous crudity a complete success.
Rating out of 10: 2