Now You See Me is the story of a four-magician team that somehow pulls off stunning heists while performing, and then, in Robin Hood style, showers their live audiences with the loot—all the while dogged by the FBI and Interpol. Could we ask for more?
Well, it does have much going for it, beginning with a great cast. Of the four magicians, Jesse Eisenberg (nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) is the masterful card-sharp and illusionist, with Woody Harrelson as the delightfully cagey mentalist, Dave Franco the slick pickpocket, and Isla Fisher the sensational escape artist.
They are joined by Mark Ruffalo as the hapless FBI agent and Melanie Laurent as his insightful Interpol counterpart. Michael Caine is the magic team’s multimillionaire sponsor with little to do except play Michael Caine, but Morgan Freeman is great as a retired magician turned debunker of magicians. He keeps popping up like a rabbit from a hat.
Other plusses are the movie’s dazzling illusions and the revelations of their secrets. (You wait until the credits to learn who is responsible: One of history’s greatest magicians, David Copperfield.) And action—wow, is there action!
But it is all too much—too much audacious premise, too much special effects, too much ah ha! The adoption of Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief,” viewers soon discover, has its limits. And by the time the final surprise ending arrives, one’s surprise capacity has been—unsurprisingly—all but depleted.
Magicians, investigators, and other critical thinkers (this excludes mere debunkers) may wish to see Now You See Me—twice, to study its many intricacies. Others, however, may prefer that ubiquitous movie alternative, Now You Don’t.
Rating: Two and a half wooden nickels (out of four)