June 01--"Now You See Me" isn't quite as clever as it would like to be, but it's still a lot of fun.
It's about four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco, younger brother of James) who join forces for a wildly extravagant act that involves bank robbery -- including one heist in Paris, half a world away from their Las Vegas stage.
Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) of the FBI and Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) of Interpol are assigned to nail these pranksters, who become known as the Four Horsemen, but the trick is coming up with proof. The magicians also are closely followed by a man (Morgan Freeman) who has made a career out of proving that the magic in magic acts is fake.
Magic tricks, we're told again and again, involve misdirection, and if you keep this in mind, you might be able to solve part, if not most, of the big, convoluted mystery behind everything. Or at least you might be able to see through some of the magicians' tricks.
That's one of the things that keeps you engaged in the movie -- trying to figure out what's going on, who's doing what to whom and why.
But what's most fun about the movie is the arrogance of the Four Horsemen. They love messing with authority figures, whether it's Rhodes or the tycoon (Michael Caine) who bankrolls their stage act.
Eisenberg's character, J. Daniel Atlas (even the name smacks of a huge ego), is the most arrogant of them all -- think of Eisenberg's take on Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" and you get the picture. Atlas' encounter with Rhodes in the interrogation room is especially funny, as Atlas pulls a switcheroo involving handcuffs (it's in the trailer) and says "First rule of magic: Always be the smartest person in the room." Harrelson also stands out as Merritt McKinney, another cocky guy who can hypnotize people for humorous effect -- and profit.
In fact, a little more character development -- especially of the Four Horsemen -- would have gone a long way. The talented Isla Fisher ("Wedding Crashers," "The Great Gatsby"), in particular, seems underused.
Instead, the film resorts to (ugh) a car chase! You know, because magic and car chases ... never mind. Just seems a bit desperate. (No big surprise that the film's director, Louis Leterrier, helmed the first two "Transporter" movies.)
OK, so it's not perfect. But there's enough right about this film that I would welcome seeing some of the characters return in "Now You See Me Again."
(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)
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