NOW YOU SEE ME
*** (out of 5)
May 31, 2013
Jesse Eisenberg as J. DANIEL ATLAS
Mark Ruffalo as DYLAN RHODES
Woody Harrelson as MERRIT MCKINNEY
Isla Fisher as HENLEY REEVES
Dave Franco as JACK WILDER
Mélanie Laurent as ALMA DRAY
Morgan Freeman as THADDEUS BRADLEY
Michael Caine as ARTHUR TRESSLER
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I know it’s popular to make fun of magicians and to marginalize magic acts as cheap entertainment. But damn it, I like magic acts. I’ve been to Vegas multiple times and seen shows that range from the mundane (e.g., a guy named Rick Thomas and some geriatric tigers) to pretty spectacular (e.g., David Copperfield at Caesar’s Palace).
Heck, I even liked “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” a comedy about magic that came out earlier this year. (Just don’t get me started on David Blaine, who is a talented close-up magician but focuses his energy into painfully unentertaining stunts rather than sleight of hand.)
Still, I was trepidatious about seeing “Now You See Me.” Honestly, the way the trailers played, this film could have gone either way. It could have been a disaster, or it could have been a fun piece of summer fluff. Maybe it was because it opened opposite the galactic stinker “After Earth” that I found myself enjoying this movie more than I probably should have.
“Now You See Me” follows four relatively unknown street magicians who become a phenomenon when they join together for a stage show in which they pull off incredible heists. An overzealous FBI agent named Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) tries to take them down, but they always seem to be one or two steps ahead of him.
What actually makes “Now You See Me” work is a mixture of a solid cast and a strong directing pace. Like an actual magic show, there’s a lot of misdirection, either with some fast-paced action scenes as well as a relatively large cast with no real main character. In fact, even though the magicians get most of the play in the trailers, the focus of the story is aimed at Agent Rhodes.
It’s not that the cast is amazing. It just has some amazing people in it. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine (reuniting from their stint in the “Dark Knight” movies) bring a strong level of quality to the picture. However, for each one of them, there’s a weaker David Franco or Isla Fisher. But with so many people on the marquee, it’s hard to get too irritated with any of them who tend to be annoying in large doses.
In particular, I’m talking about Jesse Eisenberg, who plays an illusionist version of Mark Zuckerberg from “The Social Network.” Eisenberg has a very short shelf life in movies for me, but his arrogant delivery and ridiculous facial hair are supporting characters in this movie. Minimizing his exposure just makes it fun to see him and Woody Harrelson reunite on screen from their “Zombieland” days.
“Now You See Me” is a fine disposable summer movie. It’s not terribly smart or well-written, but then again, that’s not its intention. It has a lot of flash, but that’s magic. In fact, the only real problem with the magic moments of the film is when all-too-obvious digital effects are used and take you out of the cool illusion delivery.
There’s nothing really all that special about “Now You See Me.” It has its flaws, sure, including some predictability in the story, teeth-grinding bad dialogue and some minor pacing issues. However, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should you.