Now You See Me review: popcorn with glitter on top

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Now You See Me green light Jesse Eisenberg Dave Franco Isla Fisher Woody Harrelson

Most of it makes no sense at all, but who cares? This is cheerful ridiculousness pulled off with panache.
I’m “biast” (pro): the trailer looked good; love the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It makes almost no sense even as it is unspooling before your eyes, and it completely falls apart once you start to think about, but none of that matters: as soon as it ends, you will want to watch it again immediately to see if you can figure out just where the sleight-of-movie fooled you into looking somewhere other than where the real story was happening. To call Now You See MeOcean’s Eleven with magic” is overselling it — it’s nowhere near as smart and snappy as Soderbergh’s flick of pure joy — but that’s clearly what the aim was here: Four street magicians (Woody Harrelson [Seven Psychopaths], Jesse Eisenberg [Rio], Isla Fisher [Rise of the Guardians], and Dave Franco [Warm Bodies]) are brought together by an unknown benefactor to pull off a series of spectacular heists disguised as glitzy Vegas-style magic shows. Why was magic debunker Morgan Freeman [Oblivion] on their case even before their first heist? This is one of the unsolved mysteries (unless there’s a clue I missed — gotta go for that second viewing!). Trying to solve the mystery of how the magicians are actually managing to really steal millions is FBI agent Mark Ruffalo [The Avengers], who is thwarted at every step, as we knew he would be: there’s lot of snark about magicians having to be the smartest guy in the room and always being two steps ahead of the audience. Magic is “targeted deception,” we are informed. And so are movies. Now You See Me targeted me just right, with a fresh breeziness and a cast that is supremely fun to watch; Eisenberg and Ruffalo are particularly good, and their one big scene together is electric. I didn’t care that, in the end, it turned out to be maybe trying too hard to trick me, because I had a lot of fun along the way.

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Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
Fri, Jul 05, 2013 4:58pm

I enjoyed this as well, as popcorn movies go. But to me the most interesting thing about it is that it fails due to one specific, easily identifiable mistake. It chooses the wrong POV character. By deciding to follow a secondary character around, I was never sure who to root for, never felt like we got to know the leads, and instead were shown things that were patently false. Some good performances Eisenberg and Harrelson are wasted because they get so little screen time. And the ending, which was never as clever as the screenwriters thought it was, goes beyond “doesn’t make sense” to “not actually possible”. Arguably, you could call that a meditation on stage magic. Three problems with that: 1) what works in stage magic doesn’t necessarily make for a compelling story; 2) a magician only makes you think seeing/hearing something that isn’t true, whereas the film is deliberately lying; 3) we know that the magician is going to lie, but we trust filmmakers to play straight with what they show us.

Nonoy Avellanosa
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Thu, Aug 22, 2013 3:47pm

I completely agree with you Dr. Rocketscience. Just because the movie is all about magic and tricks doesn’t mean it is alright to trick you at the end. The POV is really bad. In every story (movie) there should be a consistent POV (Point of View). Even if it is omniscient third person, it doesn’t show what that omniscient sees or not. It shouldn’t be the deception as the movie is about; movies shouldn’t be made this way. I am just disappointed with the ending.

Not bad after all because the writer/director thought it fooled me, but it didn’t because I had fun from the beginning and after the climax.

Abby Russell
Abby Russell
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Tue, May 13, 2014 12:30am

But I don’t think having two main POVs was what you called a “mistake”. It was setting up the ending. The fact that it got us rooting for two seemingly opposing teams made the ending make sense as they came together. This way, this development felt more natural than if the movie lead you to view one party as the “baddies”. At least it felt that way for me. I thought of it as a clever clue that the filmakers left for us using the conventions of storytelling.

Muz
Muz
Fri, Jul 05, 2013 7:59pm

I enjoyed most of the movie, but the end left me feeling really cheated. (I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons, but I’m sure anyone who’s seen it will know what I’m referring to, even if they don’t feel the same.)

shinkei
shinkei
reply to  Muz
Sun, Aug 04, 2013 3:07pm

ah, but regardless, if you watch the movies a second time, there are little bits and pieces that points to the end of the movie. Which means its not just a little thing that they (the writers) came up with on a whim, it was planned, and written in stone from the beginning.

RogerBW
RogerBW
Fri, Jul 12, 2013 5:04pm

This is getting panned elsewhere, so it’s good to see that the sense of fun promised by the trailer comes through at least to some extent in the actual film.

JaneD
JaneD
Thu, Jul 18, 2013 7:30pm

I agree with most of this, although I think its explained that Morgan Freeman’s (character’s) Job is running a website debunking magicians. Therefore it makes sense that he would be on their case as a particularly large magic act.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
Sat, Jun 28, 2014 5:35am

I got who “the 5th horseman” was…dunno why, maybe because he was too dumb? Because there was so much misdirection away from him? But that ending…!!!! What a pile of crap.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
Wed, May 27, 2015 2:08pm

There’s a sequel in the works. Like they think we gave enough of a hoot about any of the characters to make it worthwhile…

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  LaSargenta
Wed, May 27, 2015 9:16pm

Two sequels are in the works, actually. They’re not even waiting to see how the second one does before giving the third a go-ahead.

Lucy Gillam
reply to  LaSargenta
Wed, Oct 24, 2018 8:41am

Well, I did…