Comedians as conjurors?
It didn’t work out so well for Mitchell and Webb with Magicians (2007). Luckily, Steve Carell and Jim Carrey have a few more tricks up their sleeves, even if unpredictability does an early vanishing act.
Carell is Burt, a millionaire Vegas illusionist whose ‘magical friendship’ with childhood pal/stage partner Anton (Steve Buscemi) has soured.
Carrey is brain-rapist (his description, not ours) Steve Gray, an infamy-hungry street magician out to bury Burt one stunt at a time.
From the spray tans and sexual opportunism to the horrifying hairpieces, Don Scardino’s (30 Rock) film revels in sleaze and cheese.
True, the likes of Siegfried & Roy and David Blaine - both obvious targets here - do a good-enough job of sending themselves up, but the stars’ attention to gesture, posture and patter is so dead-on that this plays as a withering showbiz satire. Half the time, anyway. Then it goes a bit soft.
Thankfully, Carell’s sincerity helps to the sell the sentimentality. But other problems persist. Uncorking Carrey’s demonic energy in short, intermittent bursts works, but Buscemi feels shortchanged (though he does get a good riff on celebs on woolly charity crusades).
More disappointing, though, is that you can see every plot turn coming as if it were an outsized neon billboard - now that’s not magic.
Carell and Carrey shine like sequinned suits in a comedy that allows them endless fun with the dressing-up box. More narrative verve and it could’ve been The Prestige in a big-cat wig.