At the end of almost every scene in Now You See Me, I muttered, “What an ASSHOLE!” This was a problem, because I think some of the characters were intended to be likable. But Jesse Eisenberg is at his absolute Eisenbergiest here, and I can only assume there was someone behind the camera shouting, “No! Smirk more!” a lot.
Most movies about magicians try to make the tricks on stage work in real life. And there are a few “magic consultants” listed in the credits, although I don’t see Ricky Jay in there. But this movie is not afraid to throw in some CGI nonsense to spice things up. There’s a scene in the commercials in which Jesse Eisenberg is handcuffed, and then when he waves his hands, the handcuffs have humped onto Mark Ruffalo’s wrists instead. It’s dumb. And Woody Harrelson’s mentalist can hypnotize people perfectly with just a glance, which I think makes him the most useful member of the team. His posthypnotic suggestions work 100% every time!
It’s also a heist movie, and it suffers from the usual problem of heist movies: somebody’s spending fifty million dollars to steal ten. And we never learn where the budget for all this nonsense comes from, because the end of the movie is more interested in its ridiculous twist ending.
There’s also a lot of stuff about characters reminding each other that magic isn’t real. But there’s no reason anyone should think it is! You’re not arresting these magicians because you think they teleported someone around the world to steal money; you’re arresting them because they have the money that was stolen. No one’s going to make fun of you for that! Just throw them in jail and get onwith your life!
SPOILERS ABOUT THE ENDING, IF YOU CARE
So the whole scheme turns out to be a plan to frame Morgan Freeman. And they get away with it, which seems weird. In the ethics of this movie, a guy who explains how magic tricks work is much, much worse than people who steal millions of dollars from banks. Sure, Morgan Freeman is a smug, smirky jerk, but so is everyone else. I don’t think he deserves to rot in jail for the rest of his life for a crime he had nothing to do with, but luckily for him, there isn’t going to be a lot of actual evidence tying him to the crimes he was arrested for.
I’m also a little concerned about what’s going to happen to the four magician characters. At the end of the movie, they’re wanted by the FBI and Interpol, which you’d think would get in the way of their show business careers. They’re not even going to be able to go back to their crummy street-magic way of life!
OKAY, THAT’S ENOUGH SPOILERS
This movie seems to believe that if characters are stylish and confident, they’ll automatically be liked by the audience, no matter how awful they are. I’m going to call that “The Smokin’ Aces Fallacy.”