You know a movie hasn’t done the trick when the most entertaining on-camera moment featuring two of its stars isn’t even part of the picture itself. This was the case with Now You See Me, Hollywood’s second magical misfire in two months. (Remember The Incredible Burt Wonderstone? I didn’t think so.)
Forget the trailer for Louis Leterrier’s (The Transporter) latest; for a hint of the grade of moviegoing merriment awaiting you, check out the interview Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman gave a Fox affiliate by satellite on the morning of May 23. I’ll wait while you watch.
Have you ever witnessed anything quite as refreshing? Actors are always so enthusiastic in these situations. It’s part of the act. Each new project’s the highpoint of the performer’s career. Until they reappear to push the next one. Then that’s a giant leap forward for humankind. How great is it that Freeman—clearly tired of hyping a film certain to prove a footnote to his career—drops the pretense and bags a few Zs while Caine prattles on like a wind up toy?
Whatever else may be said about the instantly viral video, this much is indisputable: It’s way more fun than anything in the movie the two are talking up. (You can tell I’m putting off reviewing it, right? Just thinking about it is painful. I know how Freeman feels.)
My favorite part of the clip is the moment when the local anchor pulls a Ron Burgundy and asks the screen icon the secret to being a great narrator. In perhaps the planet’s most recognizable, mellifluous tones, the performer replies, “It helps to be a good reader. Having a clear voice, that’s all.” The look on the host’s face is as priceless as it is clueless.
Well, it can’t be put off forever. This slice of big screen baloney isn’t going to review itself. (Now that would be a trick I’d pay to see. Or, in this case, pay somebody to perform to spare myself revisiting it.) Though, hang on-I just remembered something else, something a bit mindblowing about the production.
Get this: Leterrier directed the 2010 film Clash of the Titans. Boaz Yakin, who cowrote Leterrier’s latest, directed the 2000 film Remember the Titans! Pretty freaky, huh? I wonder whether I’d find reference to other movies concerning Titans if I researched the filmographies of Now You See Me‘s cast and crew on iMDB. Something bound to prove more exciting than reviewing the movie, much less watching it.
OK, here you go: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Isla Fisher star as members of an ensemble called The Four Horsemen, famous for pulling remote control bank heists while on stage and showering their audience with the ill-gotten gains. Mark Ruffalo plays the grumpy, rumpled FBI agent assigned to the case. The characters played by Caine and Freeman are the casting equivalent of misdirection, adding nothing to the story, which has more holes than all the magic in the world can make disappear.
The film’s riddled with flaws but the biggest problem is the premise. The whole sleight-of-hand-artists-as-Robin-Hood-style rock-stars thing is an illusion. The four are a bore. After a flashy opening, the story downshifts into a disappointingly routine bit of cops and robbers with the Horsemen staying one smoke and mirrors step ahead of the Man until the final act reaches up its sleeve and pulls out a big twist that’s supposed to take us by surprise but, instead, just takes us for idiots.
Not to mention CGI sort of sucks the wonder out of on-screen sorcery for obvious reasons. Prestidigitals. The movie sucks so much, though in the end it doesn’t really matter. Before opening weekend, you might’ve had reason to believe Now You See Me would prove the project to break Hollywood’s magician movie curse. Now-to say the very least-you don’t.