Swanner: Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi play two headlining Magicians on the Vegas Strip. As their Attendance starts to drop off and new magician comes to town that threatens status. I’m not sure about Brian but I hate Magicians. I hate all the drama and performance but after seeing this movie I have a better respect for them. I’m not saying I’d sit through a show but I get it now. I certainly didn’t expect the movie I saw based on the trailer. I expected a lot of goofiness but got a solid comedy.
Judd: I like magicians like Penn & Teller and I’ve been to a party with a “close-up” magician and enjoyed their skill, but I would never see a big show like David Copperfield. My taste in magic is actually pretty well correlated with this movie, it was much better when it dealt with its characters up close, but suffered in the bigger set pieces. It’s in these bigger set pieces that Carell and Jim Carrey, as Criss Angel-esque Steve Gray, are at their Carell and Carrey-est and it wears thin, fast.
Swanner: Did you notice how much Carell looks like Barry Manilow post face lifts? I was really expecting there to be so much more Carell and Carrey going on by what the trailer mislead me. I was really pleasantly surprised with how much it didn’t suck. Director Don Scardino (30 Rock) kept the performances in check, we know how Carrey gets when he’s not on a lease, and the screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses) was genuinely funny … also unexpected.
Judd: I, too, was pleasantly surprised about how much it didn’t suck , but that doesn’t mean I thought it was good. I thought the movie was terribly uneven, moving between redemptive schmaltz and subdued shenanigans. For the movie to have worked, there should have been a genuine emotional connection to Burt Wonderstone as an entertainer who’s lost the love of his craft. This is one of those weirdly inverted situations where the emotion is killed by the comedy, which felt shoehorned in.
Swanner: I think I liked it more than you. They got me with the Schmaltz. The Alan Arkin character was just too sweet and real. How does Arkin always do it? He plays the same character and it always works. I also like Olivia Wilde’s storyline. They always get me with the sentimental stuff. I agree that Wonderstone’s ego breakdown hurt the story instead of moving it. I would suggest this to any one that like Horrible Bosses or Identity Thief. It has the same unevenness but still delivers enough to make it worth the watch.
Judd: Identity Thief is a perfect comparison, however I think that Identity Thief struck a better balance between the comedy and the tears. We know Carell has the chops to carry both like McCarthy did, so I think the failing here was the direction and the script. I’m not sure what could have made it better, and I would recommend anyone wanting to see this to wait for rental.