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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 11.43%
Average: 5.71%
Pretty Bad: 40%
Total Crap42.86%

4 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Now You See Me
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by Jay Seaver

"Tries to misdirect the audience into thinking it's seen something clever."
2 stars

The tagline for "Now You See Me" - both within the film and in its advertising - is kind of shameless in how it basically tells the audience not to examine things too closely, although I don't know if looking at the bigger picture makes things any less dumb. Still, if you go along with what the filmmakers present, it kind of looks like a good movie, though that's an illusion.

That sounds like a horribly snobby thing to say about the folks who enjoy it, so perhaps its more apt to say that director Louis Leterrier and everyone else involved do a good enough job of putting the pieces of a fun caper movie up on screen and zipping between them fast enough that even when the audience gets ahead of the characters or realizes that things don't quite make sense, it's not boring. There's enough scale and style that it feels like a big-screen movie, and the well-assembled cast is mostly tasked with the sort of things that they do well. The script by Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt, and Ed Solomon is completely hollow, but it checks off a lot of things that people like to see in movies, so the surface goes down smooth.

It does show its weakness from the very beginning, though, when four magicians - would-be-Copperfield Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and street hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are recruited by an unknown benefactor. A year later, they're playing Vegas as a sort of magical supergroup presented by billionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), but when they incorporate a seemingly impossible bank robbery into their act, that gets the attention of FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), French Interpol detective Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), and professional debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). It asks the audience to swallow something very elaborate to start with, while giving the characters just the most basic of personality quirks to define them. It's flashy and kind of instinctively engaging, but thin.

The story's problems are huge. Take the "Four Horsemen", as the magicians name themselves upon their re-emergence. The audience is invited to spend a good chunk of the movie with them, and we can tell from the start that magicians must be clever, audacious, and proficient at highly-specific skills - and yet, as soon as they are called together, they're just tools for their mysterious benefactor to use with a different way of being abrasive. It's a lot of star power (plus a reasonably entertaining Dave Franco) for a group that seldom seems active. Of course, they're made to look super-capable with tricks that don't stand up to a whole lot of scrutiny (Merritt's skill at mesmerism, in particular, is supervillain-level), but it often makes the cops that the audience has to spend a lot of time with look more like fools than worthy protagonists. One subplot takes up so much time and amounts to so little that it almost has to be misdirection, but for a movie that enjoys its grand revelations so much, it is left absurdly ambiguous. A ton of details don't pass the smell test. And in all honesty, I think the writers get Alma's fascination with magic completely wrong - she's given a lot of lines about trust and faith, but illusionists entertain in large part because even the most normally passive viewer has the "how does that work" part of their brain start firing. It's about curiosity, not blind acceptance, and it's downright stupid to have Alma doing a bunch of research and learning how to do the tricks while talking about how exciting ignorance is.

It's got a nifty cast playing the ciphers, though - while Jesse Eisenberg is little but sarcastic and snotty, Woody Harrelson is basically doing a laid-back sort of sleaze, and Dave Franco is going for excitable and inexperienced, those are notes they're pretty good at. Poor Isla Fisher's saddled with "look pretty", which is well within her skill set, but she's not given much of a chance to be the bright spot in a bad movie she usually is. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman get by on being Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, each with the imperiousness cranked up a notch. Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent each have an easygoing charm about them, although they aren't really up to making them being paired romantically more than just what movies do with male and female characters in close quarters (see also Eisenberg and Fisher).

The movie has a credit of being inspired by the magic of David Copperfield, and to their credit, Leterrier and his directors of photography do sort of capture the feel of that magician's 1980s TV specials in shooting the big set pieces, making them slick with crane and helicopter shots that represent the scale of the trick. Some of the action is fairly impressive - Leterrier still retains some car chase skills from his work on the Transporter films, for instance, and he does both versions of the opening heist with some style. Other bits are uneven and only fitfully meet their potential - trying to fight a guy who disappears for a living on his home turf, for instance - while others seem messy and almost obligatory.

A lot of "Now You See Me" is like that - the filmmakers are doing all the things the audience expects from this sort of action-heist movie, and for all that they've got the skills to execute fairly well, they're more following a template than doing something particularly inspired. That makes it the sort of bad movie that the viewer is more likely to forget than actively hate, and for some that may be even worse.

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originally posted: 06/02/13 15:33:44
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User Comments

2/25/15 stanley welles not much up its sleeve 1 stars
1/22/15 zenny Kinda dumb. Or really dumb. Either way, "dumb" is the operative word here. 2 stars
11/23/13 Patricia good cast, fun movie 4 stars
10/28/13 silaaron This movie was great, I hear 6 year olds say you can't do that(irl) Think of something else 4 stars
9/10/13 Charles Tatum Not the disaster you've heard of, Ruffalo and cast carry it. 4 stars
9/01/13 Booch It would've been much better if ruffalo simply got pissed and turned green 1 stars
8/29/13 Langano Not bad, kept my interest. 3 stars
6/24/13 The Big D Original concept, and the ending was ok, but the magicians' snotty attitudes were annoying! 3 stars
6/13/13 Tom jenkins Now you 'wish you didn't ' see me 1 stars
6/06/13 KingNeutron One of Ruffalo's best roles, IMHO - only thing I didn't like was the motion trackers. 4 stars
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  31-May-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Sep-2013

  03-Jul-2013 (12A)

  DVD: 03-Sep-2013

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