The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opens today with middling to bad reviews, but even though the movie is off to an iffy start, its star Steve Carell may have a lot to look forward to this year—maybe even an Oscar bid. The problem with his first major release of 2013 is that he's just not Will Ferrell.
One of the complaints about Wonderstone—in which Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey play struggling magicians—is that it seems like the role should have gone to Ferrell, a comic actor so broad he can make the most ridiculous characters carry an entire movie. Lou Lumenick at the New York Post writes: "Steve Carell is fatally miscast as an arrogant, flamboyant third-rate magician in 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,' which by all rights should have been a second-rate Will Ferrell vehicle." Ty Burr at The Boston Globe writes that Wonderstone is a "is a lazy, underwritten imitation Will Ferrell movie." That's not to say Carell is bad. Stephen Holden at the New York Times explains that "Because Mr. Carell doesn’t go in for the kind of all-out caricature that Mr. Ferrell embraces with a manic glee, 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' has an underlying soulfulness that cuts against its farcical aspirations." That said, Holden adds that the movie then "lacks a shark’s bite."
Carell entered our filmgoing consciousness as the guy who got his chest waxed in inglorious fashion in Judd Apatow breakout The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but he's always had a bit of a serious actor lurking inside—one that he sometimes eschews for the broad humor of something like Wonderstone. The year after Virgin he appeared as a suicidal Proust scholar in the dark comedy Little Miss Sunshine, which went on to garner a bunch of Oscar nominations.