Love the Coopers reminds us that there are few things worse than booze-fuelled family gatherings, but one of them is definitely schmaltzy Hollywood movies about such reunions. Drawing numerous narrative threads towards a climactic yuletide dinner, the film introduces four generations of one family, who must overcome grudges and failings, let slip the odd lingering secret, and possibly realise the true meaning of Christmas.
Burt Wonderstone and his sidekick, Anton Marvelton (played by Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi) are old-school magicians enjoying the last days of the stardom as the world of magic starts to change, with the rise of edgier performers like Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), who embody a rougher, less showy kind of stage craft. Soon Wonderstone and Marvelton find the going tough and lose the patronage of their hotel-owning sponsor Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) and Wonderstone tries to escape a personal nadir with the help of former assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) and his childhood inspiration, retired magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a fairly formulaic redemption comedy. Although much of the film is flat and familiar, there are some good comic moments, especially from Arkin, Carrey and Gandolfini. Unchallenging but entertaining, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a light experience, perfect for a long flight, or midweek diversion.
For a film that mostly consists of Al Pacino and Christopher Walken hanging out, reminiscing about the good old days and itching to get back in the action and go cap some fools, Fisher Stevens’ Stand Up Guys is incredibly dull and wasteful of its resources. Alan Arkin, sold as the third lead, doesn’t turn up for 40 minutes and then doesn’t stick around long enough to contribute anything noteworthy. A few female bit-parts are scattered around in a weak attempt to keep things balanced, but the whole affair feels half-baked and unsure of its own ambitions, while the central hook of impending menace makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.