Now You See Me surprisingly took down After Earth on its opening weekend at the box office, but that wasn’t the end of its trick. It ended up turning into the sleeper hit of the summer. While the film is nothing great, it does offer some entertainment that doesn’t involve spaceships or superheroes.
Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco (yes, James’ younger brother) play 4 magicians that are mysteriously brought together to use their individual skills (card expert, escape artist, mentalist, and slight of hand master) for a mysterious task. Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent (in a terrible performance) play the detectives trying to figure it all out, but they are not really sure what they are trying to figure out. Yeah, there’s nothing that’s really clear cut here.
The early scenes feature the magicians performing tricks for a crowd, and while the crowd in the movie is in awe, the effect is lost on the moviewatching audience, since director Louis Leterrier has CGI and editing at his disposal. Isla Fisher floating around the theatre in a bubble or someone suddenly appearing on the other side of the room after a shot change has zero wow factor. If Leterrier had really staged some tricks with no editing and special effects then there could have been some really exciting stuff going on here.
Once the film becomes more of an Ocean’s Eleven heist film, there’s some fun sequences, especially the great hand-to-hand combat in the sequence where Franco is trying to avoid getting arrested. Bonus points for having Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in the flick. Any time they are in a film, it immediately gets better. It’s especially fun since their characters don’t like each other.
But the clunky script features weak dialogue and derivative characters. You don’t feel like you get to know the 4 protagonists at all. The film never really figures out what all this elaborate fuss is all about. It all leads to a final reveal, that, of course, is necessary for this type of film, but makes absolutely no sense at all. The film just hopes it can distract you with the shocking trick and not actually think about the logistics of that reveal.
Now You See Me does standout in the summer movie crowd for its subject matter, but it’s unfortunate it’s not able to pull off a smarter spectacle.