Unless they're a fantasy involving powerful wizards and malevolent minions, movies about magic are rarely magical. Now You See Me connects three magicians and a mentalist. They are contacted and teamed together by a mysterious person who helps them set up what appears to be perfect crimes.
The first action is with a multi-millionaire mogul who sets them up on stage in Las Vegas. There, they rob a bank in France. Each succeeding event gets more dramatic and more public attention. Their escapades also get the attention of the FBI and Interpol. But actually proving they've committed crimes is difficult.
Jesse Eisenberg heads the cast of magicians and co-stars with Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco. The FBI and Interpol detectives are Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent. Morgan Freeman plays a magician that makes a living debunking magic. He works with the FBI to help them figure out how the group is doing their crimes.
Michael Caine rounds out the cast as the multi-millionaire.
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A couple of plot lines work but only if you're interested in magic. Writers Ed Solomon (Men in Black), Boaz Yakin (Prince of Persia) and newcomer Edward Ricourt explain the misdirection magicians use to distract audiences and how they're always a step ahead. The second is a nice discussion about real magic and our fascination with that which cannot be explained.
Where the film fails miserably is the acting. Eisenberg and Harrelson recycle their stock characters. Harrelson's is tolerable, even likable. Eisenberg irritates. Ruffalo is cranky and disgusted, and the love story with Laurent has zero oomph.
Freeman and Caine play no-surprise, arrogant, smiling know-it-alls.
And the holes in Louis Leterrier's (The Transporter) direction are enough to make any zip the film has disappear. Everything is not only contrived, but it's too controlled. Money falls from the sky, and crowds of people just politely sit and stand there and wait for it to fall into their hands. Yeah, right. In real life, it's a stampede. And dangerous.
There's no need to dig any deeper. There is very little magic in the plodding plot. Sometimes a great twist ending can make up a lot of lost plot ground, but even the end twist of Now You See Me is mundane.
Director: Louis Leterrier
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Michael Caine
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.