Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) are successful Las Vegas magicians. When Anton is injured in a performance, Burt is left vulnerable to competition. That competition comes in the form of street magician Steve Gray (Carrey).
There’s a lot to like in this tale of duelling magicians and Vegas intrigue; the problem is that Steve Carell’s ego monster Burt Wonderstone is pulled in all directions by an unfocused script. Had it dwelt on his rivalry with Jim Carrey’s edgy street magician or his friendship with Steve Buscemi or his relationship with Alan Arkin’s retired legend or his sparring with Olivia Wilde’s wannabe magician, we might have been on to something. Moreover, the tone veers from gently indie to broad farce, undermining Carell’s efforts to show us Burt’s rise and fall and rise again.
The inconsistencies in tone - is it an Anchorman-style farce or something more serious? - distract from likeable turns from the leads.