Yes, Louis Leterrier’s film is very much the poor man’s version of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven (2001), but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now You See Me smartly appropriated the most important aspect of Soderbergh’s film — a primary concern to be pure entertainment. In this regard, Leterrier’s movie isn’t as sublimely perfect as Ocean’s Eleven. Among other flaws, it’s a bit too silly and never quite as clever as it thinks it is — but it’s certainly more fun on a basic level than any of the summer’s previous bigger budget offerings.
On paper, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this flick. The plot — revolving around four magicians who pull off improbable heists while onstage — seemed corny, and the ensemble cast of B-listers and fringe A-listers screamed non-event. But happily, Leterrier understands — at least for awhile — how to handle this material, opening the film at a fast pace that jumps all over the place, yet remains wholly coherent. It’s an occasionally impressive juggling act — surprising coming from a guy who’s frequently toiled in mediocrity — with the lamentable side effect of creating a pace that’s nearly impossible to sustain. With its intro, initial heists and rapid-fire repartee between a game cast, the first half of the film is borderline great — at least within its own limited scope.
But as the plot grows and twists in, on and around itself, various threads become entangled and the movie becomes bogged down, not to a mention a bit goofy. This is, after all, a movie that involves secret societies, professional debunkers, an Interpol detective and a mysterious, long-dead magician. The film carries a certain sense of supposed cleverness that never quite pans out. Yes, the big surprise twist plays fair with the audience, but it’s just not all that surprising — or, frankly, satisfying. In fact, there’s so much done so well at the beginning that the ending doesn’t feel right. The romance between our ersatz hero Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and the aforementioned Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) feels forced — like a requirement scratched off a checklist — while the big climax isn’t as big or involving as it should be, especially when compared to the film’s other set pieces. There’s just so much going on that Leterrier has little time to focus on what’s important and rewarding within the story. These shortcomings don’t keep Now You See Me from working as disposable entertainment, but they do stifle any chance of it being very memorable once the credits have rolled. Rated PG-13 for language, some action and sexual content.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande