Rubber-faced comic Jim Carrey returned to the big screen in fan-pleasing form by way of the opening feature of the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” stars Steve Carrell as a washed-out Las Vegas magician in ghastly sequined suits whose refusal to change with the times nearly costs him his life-long friendship with stage partner Anton Marvelton, played by Steve Buscemi.
Olivia Wilde appears as the testy duo’s trusty assistant, but the real box office draw is Carrey cast as Steve Gray, a long-haired and egotistical street magician whose repetoire of dubious crowd-pleasing tricks includes drilling a hole through his head and snoring obnoxiously on a bed of hot coals.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” which goes on general release later this month, was the maiden big screen outing for director Don Scardino, a two-time Emmy winner whose television credits range from “30 Rock” to “Law and Order.”
“It’s got tremendous hearth and tremendous smarts,” explained Janet Pierson, director of the SXSW film festival that runs in tandem with the 10-day event’s interactive segment and prior to its indie music series.
Real-life magician David Copperfield makes a cameo appearance in the film — and also came up with a hangman trick which, according to Carrell, was not faked in a picture that otherwise made discreet use of computer generated imagery.
Fans of Carrey filled the vintage Paramount cinema with hoots of laughter at a movie that, unusally for contemporary male-oriented Hollywood adult comedies, kept tasteless humor to a reasonably bearable minimum.
Scardino missed Friday screening; Carrell — who starred in the US remake of the British sitcom “The Office” — candidly revealed the director was dealing with painful kidney stones.
But cast members were more than happy to stand in for him at a post-screening question period with youthful audience members, one of whom asked Carrey to identify which of his past films was his personal favorite.
“I can’t choose between any of my movies,” said the Canadian-born funnyman best known for the Ace Ventura pet detective capers, “The Truman Show” and his last film outing, “Mr Popper’s Penguins” from two years ago.
“Every one that I do is a great experience at that moment. Right now, my world is on this stage with these guys (fellow cast and crew members) and I’m having a great experience here.”
Wilde, who acknowledged that Friday was International Women’s Day, warmed to a question from an aspiring female magician on what it was like to work with a male-dominated cast.
“They made be feel very comfortable and happy,” replied the Irish-American actress, who went on to praise the recent box office success of women filmmakers such as Kathryn Bigelow, the “Zero Dark Thirty” director.
“As in all industries, all it takes is a few great ladies to pave the way for the rest of us,” she said.
This year’s lineup of SXSW films includes a Fede Alvaraz remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror classic “The Evil Dead,” the comedy crime drama “Spring Breakers” starring Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomaz as bikini-clad restaurant robbers, and a raft of independent documentaries.