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Now You See Me (Blu-ray Review)

12 Sep, 2013 By: John Latchem

Box Office $117.39 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language, some action and sexual content.
Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent.

It’s not unusual to think that films designed to turn on complicated plot twists can prove too complex for their filmmakers. That isn’t necessarily the case with Now You See Me, but similarly to the heists at the center of the story, the Blu-ray reveals there was a lot more going on than what ended up on the screen.

The premise involves four magicians with different disciplines recruited to perform a series of heists in order to be admitted to a secret society called “The Eye.” The film is keen on reminding us that not everything in a magic show is as it seems, and then presents an incredibly improbable sequence of events that turn out to have been part of a complicated plan the whole time.

On this level, Now You See Me serves as effective escapism, as all the pieces more or less fall into place before the average viewer will have time to think them through. But what we glean from the behind-the-scenes materials, mostly a commentary and a production featurette, as well as more than a half-hour of deleted scenes, is that while the basic plot elements remained in place, filmmakers had a bit of a struggle with how to present them effectively. Superfluous subplots were cut out and there’s even an alternate ending of the final reveal.

For the most part, the film is better off for the changes, save for the occasional scenes that seem to come out of nowhere and the murky character motivations that go along with them. Now You See Me also has a habit of painstakingly spelling out even the exposition that should be painfully obvious. The film markets itself to an audience that enjoys a good magic trick while being written for viewers who have never seen one.

Typical cinema tricks such as CGI effects (a bit of a cheat in a movie about illusionists) and flashy editing are employed to entertain without requiring too much mental exertion from the audience.

Compare this, for example, to Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, another film about magicians with its own complicated plot twists. But where The Prestige can be admired for the sheer audacity of its structure and craftsmanship long after its secrets are revealed, Now You See Me isn’t the type of movie that can withstand the scrutiny of repeat viewings.

Still, it’s interesting to perceive certain performances from the perspective of knowing the ending, and it’s especially nice to see Morgan Freeman seem like he’s awake for a performance, unlike his lifeless turn in Olympus Has Fallen. Now You See Me is certainly a cut above this year’s other big magician movie, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

The other major extra is an engaging 11-minute featurette about the history of magic with the film’s magic consultant, David Kwong.

The Blu-ray also includes an extended version of the film that runs about 15 minutes longer, although the additions are relatively minor and hardly perceivable. The biggest change is the addition of a post-credits scene cobbled together from two deleted scenes and some re-dubbed dialogue to pave the way for a potential sequel.

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