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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 7, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 23
Unimaginative Now You See Me lacks magic
Arts & Entertainment
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Unimaginative Now You See Me lacks magic

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

NOW YOU SEE ME
Now showing


Four talented magicians, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), come together under the tutelage and instruction of a mysterious benefactor to stage a trio of magic showcases involving various forms of Robin Hood-style magnanimity. After their first heist, in which they seemingly rob a Parisian bank from the safety and comfort of a Las Vegas stage, F.B.I. Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), saddled with a partner, Almay Dray (Mélanie Laurent), direct from Interpol, is tasked with figuring out how they did it, turning to veteran magical act debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) for advice.

There's not a lot to say about Now You See Me, a puzzle-box suspense-thriller directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) and written by screenwriters Ed Solomon (Men in Black), Boaz Yakin (Safe) and newcomer Edward Ricourt. The movie has energy. It has a pulse. It is filled with swooping camera moves, flashy edits, and thunderous score cues. It has numerous elements designed and engineered entirely to keep one's attention, doing just that for virtually every one of its quickly paced 116 minutes.

What it is missing, however, is a reason to exist. There are no characters in this movie, no reasons to care about anything going on, everything presented to maximum effect but to very little impact. By the time it is over we know little more about our central band of magical thieves than we did at the start, while our F.B.I. agent lead isn't handled all that much better. The whole thing is an emotionless exercise in flash, style, and excess, all of it lacking in imagination and subtlety pretty much start to finish.

At the same time, I can't say I hated the movie enough to care about writing anything extensive about it. The cast does what they can, and while none of them are doing anything we haven't seen before (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Freeman, Ruffalo, and a clearly slumming Michael Caine in particular), none of them embarrass themselves, either. I didn't hate spending time with any of them, and while I was never surprised or amazed by anything that was happening I wasn't exactly bored by it.

Still, the unrelenting stupidity of it all can get insulting, the screenwriters never really crafting a mystery the audience can solve, as clues allowing for viewers to put the pieces together on their own never actually exist. Additionally, where it is all going, how it is all going to end, every single facet of the narrative is truly nothing more than a tired inevita-bility, and it was all I could do to stifle a yawn as events ultimately played themselves out.

In the end, Now You See Me isn't anything to get worked up about one way or the other, and while I can't recommend it I suspect it will play rather well on cable television for viewers with short attention spans and other things on their minds. It isn't so much a bad movie as it is an instantly forgettable one, making its disappearing act from theaters a foregone conclusion.

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