Oz the Great and Powerful, I made a crack at the expense of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Surprisingly, I started to feel guilty after saying it. A couple of minutes later I figured out why. I felt bad for knocking a new Jim Carrey movie. I was shocked. What’s this all about?
So what gives?
Now I’m thinking about his career, his overall body of work, and I have to say I’m impressed. Allow me to take a brief autobiographical pit stop. About 6 months ago I stopped performing improv comedy in Chicago, which I had been doing off-and-on since I was 17 years old. In that experience, I learned a lot about comedians and about audiences. I know enough to say now that Jim Carrey’s got IT. He is an example of a great comedian -- the kind a sketch or improv comic should aspire to be.
Here are 3 elements that make Jim Carrey a great comedian:
1) The Kid is Still There: One quote of Carrey’s that I love is “I have an unnatural need to be noticed and liked.” Reading up on his bio, Carrey as a boy would perform routines at the end of school for his classmates. His performances from Ace Ventura to Dumb and Dumber are natural extensions of this. While completely lacking in manners and social awareness, these turns are not mean-spirited. He’s just an energetic kid that wants nothing more than to be silly, do funny voices and make faces to get you to laugh. All comedians want to be able to tap into their inner child. You’d be surprised how many improvisers I’ve seen that can’t do anything more than stand in one spot on stage and say the same sarcastic things the same sarcastic way every time out. Being a kid in performance takes a lot of skill.
3) He’s Sincere: Carrey (in his movies) seems like a genuine, good-natured guy, and that’s the type of comedian audiences want to follow long-term. He’s not preening or in love with himself. He is also open to emoting and being a little bit corny at times. Earnestness works. It’s longer-lasting than clever.
• His humor isn’t dependent on getting high, drunk or hating on women - Project X or 21 and Over
• He knows that cursing is not funny unto itself - Danny McBride
• He doesn’t hold for laughs - Mike Myers (thanks Patrick for making me aware of this)
• His career is not an inside joke - Adam Sandler
• He doesn’t seem constantly confused - Owen and Luke Wilson
• He doesn’t act like every subsequent thing he says is G-D’s gift to comedy - Vince Vaughn
• He knows when he looks out the window if it is raining outside - Zooey Deschanel does not
• He doesn’t get naked ALL THE TIME in a form of second-hand narcissism - Lena Dunham. We get it! This is not the body we usually see naked on TV.
Oh yeah, I saw his new movie, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Here is a short review, followed by a list of my 5 favorite Jim Carrey movies.
I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments. Do you feel the same way about Jim Carrey? What movies from his work are your favorites? What other movie comedians do you feel are overdue for some recognition?
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Mini Review
Maybe I was just in a good mood, but I had a really pleasant time during The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. It’s not a classic comedy or anything, but it’s consistently funny and has two set pieces (one involving Steve Buscemi in the middle of the movie and one at the very end) that are blissfully demented. There are a lot of good throw-away lines. Jim Carrey shows a real knack for being a supporting player and perks up every scene he is in. It’s a shame that the movie has such a limp resolution to his character.
The aspect of Burt Wonderstone I enjoyed the most is this could easily be about comedians instead of magicians. Is Jim Carrey’s character really all that different than Dane Cook (the guy who every other professional thinks is a fraud yet is massively popular)? The movie deals with competitive rivalry, mentor-protégé relationships, going back to basics when you’re lost as an artist and the rush you can get from the gratification of an entertained audience.
Go see it. It’s a movie that swings for doubles and often connects. Plus it’s got Britta from Community! And a casino named DOUG! Most importantly, none of the funniest parts are in the trailer!
1) Dumb and Dumber - His funniest performance. Silly, witty and stupid.2
2) The Majestic - Stop picking on this! Sappy but underrated.
3) Liar Liar - Here he's at the height of his talent.
4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Most comforting post-breakup movie ever made.
5) The Mask – Fun and made by people who cared.