I needed to get out to see something that was in theaters, something new. Since movies are fun and people tend to go in groups, I made plans to go with my BFF. We agreed to meet up on Sunday for dinner and a movie with the guys, a double date. After making the plans, I turned to Google to check out our local movie listing. I saw a few new films, but nothing that stood out. I hadn’t heard of Now You See Me, so I was clueless when I clicked to view the trailer online.
What I saw was creative and not a complete rehash, so it was instantly appealing. I figured it was worth a shot as I’d heard it was holding its own at the box office. My double-date movie night turned out petty well. Unfortunately however, it seems that the movie didn’t turn out “pretty well,” for all of us. Our group was split right down the middle; if you see it, maybe you can break the tie. (Tell us if you liked it in the comment space bleow.)
I knew I liked magic going in, but I wasn’t sure if I would like the idea of a crime-caper movie with a side of magic. Additionally, the PR folks behind this film were comparing it to the Ocean’s franchise and I had attempted to watch both Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve several times, yet never managed to successfully watch either movie straight through. Being that I’m a movie nerd and since I have built-in patience for story development as a writer, it’s a bad sign when a movie can’t keep my attention. Needless to say, I was a tad nervous as the lights dimmed and the movie started so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
Now You See Me is the story of four of the world’s most promising illusionists selected to form part of a Las Vegas Robin Hood troupe. We meet our four entertainers as they work their respective crowds. That’s right, you get a magic show with the introduction of each of the Four Horsemen: Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fischer), J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Once these four form an alliance, they quickly find fame via their first Vegas act where they rob a bank in Paris from a Las Vegas auditorium. How do the Four Horsemen manage such a feat? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
Despite the fact that the Horsemen are giving the money they acquire back to the people that were cheated out of it, they’re still stealing (on an international level) and that’s where FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) come in. These two agents do their best to stay ahead of the Horsemen, but no matter what they do, they find themselves chasing the illusionists through an obstacle course of their own design. Now You See Me is the story of Rhodes and Dray’s mission to bring the Four Horsemen to justice.
Mark Ruffalo brings a comedic-foil spin to FBI Agent Rhodes. He plays it nice and a little dumb, both of these roll right off Ruffalo’s tongue in such a way that you have no problem believing he’s a well-meaning, yet slow on the up-take FBI Agent. Ruffalo is good at conveying unyielding frustration and dedication. His performance is mostly strong. Could he have done more with this part? Sure, but at the very least he brought a satisfactory job to the table.
Woody Harrelson is the only one of the lead characters that really delivers. He’s hilarious at all times and completely captivating with his crazy. He does an excellent job as the mentalist of the group; the casting for Merritt McKinney was spot on. Harrelson brings us a likeable misfit who manages to stay grounded, even as a jaded dreamer.
Jesse Eisenberg brings back that smug persona he made famous when he played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and frankly, I’m done with that. Don’t get me wrong – I think Jesse is a talented actor. I enjoyed him greatly in The Social Network, but I would like to see him do something different. I’d like to see a side of him that doesn’t include his asshole. He does fine as J. Daniel Atlas, it’s just that he seemed to regurgitate Zuckerberg all over the place, in each of his scenes.
Surprisingly, Isla Fischer also fell flat, which is unfortunate because I usually really enjoy her. She was sorely underused and she didn’t add much dimension when she was present. This woman has some of the most expressive eyes I’ve seen in recent years and usually uses them precisely, like a conductor. This time, she came across as disconnected and one-dimensional, regardless of eye-sparkle intensity.
Michael Caine as Arthur Tressier and Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley, do fine jobs rounding out the cast. Unfortunately, neither performance is a standout. While it’s evident that some work was put into weaving an engaging story, character development is almost nonexistent. Having an intriguing story is great, but that’s not all it’s going to take to hold mine or anyone else’s attention in this ADHD environment we all inhabit.
This magician’s crime caper is just that, all caper. Had the lead characters been more thoroughly developed, beyond their talent for illusion, this might have been a more substantial film. As it stands, shockingly it’s still a fun time. The magic tricks are fantastical and the visual effects pull them off in spectacular fashion. The story is pretty interesting, if you can stay on top of the twists and pace. Give it a go if you’re looking for a crime caper aimed at the magic nerd in you.
Now You See Me (2013) – C+
C+ = This is a pretty good time and you should give it a whirl. You never know, you might enjoy it more than you think going in. It has its pitfalls, but overall worth the effort.