‘Now You See Me:’ But Don’t…See It

Magic movies are inherently hard to pull off. Because another, slightly related phenomenon known as “movie magic,” allows us to suspend our disbelief, magic magic often gets diluted on screen. Now You See Me is a magic magic movie that tries way too hard with the movie magic, and both the movie magic and the magic magic whirl together into a giant, quickly deflating movie magic magic magic balloon. And the previous sentence is about as well articulated as the movie itself (not well).

The movie is so plot heavy it becomes nearly plotless. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco make up The Four Horsemen, a group of magicians who storm the world with their elaborate magic crimes – they begin by seemingly stealing money from a bank in Paris and instantaneously making that money rain upon their Las Vegas audience. A bitter, asshole-ish FBI detective, Mark Ruffalo (who is literally the worst at playing a bitter, asshole-ish FBI detective, which probably means great things for his actual personality, but seriously, the dude cannot seem like a dick…it’s his droopy eyes. They are the most pleasant things.) is assigned to the case and spends the movie really angry about how the Four Horseman are smarter than him. He is paired with Mélanie Laurent, who is there because she is female and French. She’s a really wonderful actress, and I wish the movie was about her, but alas. They end up collaborating and then not collaborating with Morgan Freeman, who plays this “guy from the TV” (which is an actual phrase that is used to describe him in the movie), the host of a magic “Mythbusters” type show.

The entire movie quickly becomes a police chase, and not a very exciting one. Every time the FBI thinks they’ve caught a weak spot in their act, the Four Horseman prove that they are one step ahead. That pattern continues, which allows the viewing audience to almost immediately remain two steps ahead of everyone in the movie and realize that nothing that is happening actually matters because it will be semi-explained in the next five minutes or so, but that doesn’t even matter because there’s no motivation for the characters and nothing really at stake.

Now You See Me stars some great actors (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson), some…actors (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo)…and Dave Franco. The cast is ridiculous in all of the ways. Their characters are merely too convenient pawns, shuffled around and molded to whatever extraneous plot point is being wrung of its significance at the moment. These fine actors and Dave Franco are further hampered by some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard in a while. There are lines like, “Your ass is mine!” …I rest my case.

The movie is so intent on being unpredictable that no piece of the puzzle is the least bit shocking or exciting or meaningful. There’s a slapdash love story that pops out of nowhere, and Michael Caine’s character seems important for a teensy bit, then POOF! …just disappears and is not in rest of the movie. By the time the ending rolls around, it just seems like such a miracle that the only actor they lost along the way was Michael Caine. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. The greatest trick the filmmakers of Now You See Me ever pulled was convincing every other actor and Dave Franco to stick around to film this whole movie.

You may say, “But Robin, isn’t that a stupid trick to use a Usual Suspects reference that is fairly irrelevant anyway?” and to that I say, “No! It’s a stupid illusion.”

Grade: C-

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