Louis Leterrier's comedy thriller about a renegade group of illusionists, Now You See Me, relies heavily on one of magic's biggest tricks: Create enough flash-and-crash diversion, and audiences won't immediately notice it's the same tired routine. And apparently without guile, the film's script — a weak pastiche of one-liners and plot holes — explains this gimmick, even as it's counting the cash you gave up to learn it.
The utterly preposterous story finds an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an French Interpol investigator (Melanie Laurent) trying to bust a magic act called the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and scene-stealer Woody Harrelson). During their act, The Horsemen rob banks and give away the money. Also on the trail: a for-profit debunker (Morgan Freeman).
Leterrier shows us the "shocking" stage act (seemingly shot on the abandoned set of The Weakest Link), then pulls back the curtain to show how it's done. (Honestly, a lot of the "how" seems to be "because we said so" rather than being based in any reality.) This approach should double our fun, but Leterrier has no gift for creating compelling entertainment — and remember, it's how you perform the trick, not the trick itself, that matters. The pace is dreadful, the exposition and dialogue clunky, and no amount of cheesy light shows and villain switcheroos can make this bedazzled mess into awe-inspiring magic.