We all have guilty pleasure movies. Ones that we know are bad for numerous reasons, but something about them seems to resonate just the right way like that awkward rotation of your shoulder that you know can’t possibly be good for you but maaaaaan…it just works through your whole body. For me, the biggest and worst offender is the Wachowski’s Speed Racer, but there are others that fit the bill. I don’t like adding to this list; it feels dirty and shallow, but here comes Now You See Me, an insulting mess of a film that for some unknown reason just stayed captivating enough to enjoy.
Now You See Me is a heist movie, despite the fact that it’s focused around a group of magicians. Like with combatting loneliness where some people resort to alcohol or writing movie reviews, here, magic is merely a tool used to complete a series of tasks for a group of street performers that call themselves “The Four Horsemen.” With the sellout shows that they do, the question isn’t so much “how did they do that,” but “why did the show end with everyone getting a ton of money…and how exactly did they obtain it?” As fun of a question as this might be to answer, the majority of the action is spent in a cat and mouse chase where the cops try frantically to figure out the Horsemen’s next move when they really could have just checked StubHub. Alas, intelligence is merely an illusion here.
This film follows the same formula as Se7en, where incredible things happen, cops try to unravel what’s going on, we are quickly preached to by Morgan Freeman that it is part of some grander plan that is “beyond anything we can comprehend,” and eventually we just accept the fact that we’re going to have to wait this one out. Unlike the masterful Se7en however, Now You See Me doesn’t allow us to get wrapped up in the mystery as its happening.
Despite that it wasn’t a “magic” caper like The Illusionist or The Prestige, I still would have like to be allowed to guess from time to time, but unfortunately, like some crappy M. Night Shyamalan film, Now You See Me has an insatiable desire to rub in your face that it’s smarter than you. Morgan Freeman’s character is a debunker who tags along like the creepy kid down the street that your mom forced you to invite to the movies who knows every plot twist and can’t wait to blurt it out. Be it a magic trick or some secret to the scheme, within minutes of being introduced to some new turn in this film, Freeman was standing there giving the play-by-play and taking away from the mystery.
Along with numerous plot errors that the movie chose not to spell out in crayon for the drooling masses (don’t get me started on the romantic story or “the secret world where magic is real”), Now You See Me didn’t have much in the way of characters either. Magicians tend to be smug assholes because that’s how they get you to do what they need you to do in order for their tricks to work. Some do this well and don’t make you feel like an idiot in the process (Penn & Teller) and others are basically one step away from diva status where they would crush the audience like bugs, but the sound would be “mildly uncomfortable” (Criss Angel and everybody in this movie).
The Four Horsemen are not pleasant people to listen to off-stage and the charisma is non-existent in the middle of their act. They merely parade around shouting “looky what I did” and then move on to go bolster their ego somewhere else. The chemistry between these characters is only visible through snide comments and overall; everything just seems a bit too forced. Jesse Eisenberg (or, that guy from The Social Network) can’t seem to get away from just sounding like a dick every time he opens his mouth. He has that same tone as Ellen Page but I’ve seen her smile and heard her laugh before so I know there’s a shred of humanity there; these guys seem to just operate on a completely different wavelength.
Don’t expect an amazing experience out of Now You See Me if you’re looking to be amazed. You won’t be; at most, you’ll be interested because, as I said, this is a guilty pleasure movie. Despite everything that is blatantly, painfully wrong from an analysis standpoint, somehow I stayed curious how everything was going to end up and what it all meant. The twists, for those fleeting moments before Morgan Freeman crashed the party, were good ones and kept me engaged enough to keep trucking along and doing so was actually kind of fun. Once it was over, despite my better judgment, I still thought that it wasn’t half bad…but lord knows I can’t defend that statement if someone wants a deeper answer than “it just was.”
In perhaps its greatest trick of all, Now You See Me does what women pray to do from online dating sites and pulls a 7 from a 4. If you glance at other reviews and check out other scores, the mediocrity that will be suggested by them will be pretty much dead on, but I still say give this one a watch, let your mind wander for a bit and perhaps this grand illusion of a good movie might find some way to captivate you enough to enjoy as well.