I'm not going to do a movie review of the sleeper summer hit Now You See Me, and the less I tell you, the more that you will know about this magical movie, and why it annoys critics and delights audiences.
I will be up front with you: The timeless art of magic is based upon misdirection, and this, being an article about magic and a movie about magic and the magic of pissing off critics, is no different. Watch my words very carefully.
Director Louis Leterrier understands that modern magic isn't your Siegfried and Roy pulling white tigers from a sequined box kind of enterprise. Modern magic is Criss Angel-edgy. Impossible, in-your-face illusions, street magic conducted in places where there seems to be no place for the trickery that a stage can hide so well.
What's the edgiest thing that magicians can do? How about rob a bank or two before adoring crowds? Why are they adoring? The Four Horsemen, as this magical team featured in the movie are called, are modern Robin Hoods. More importantly, they are all that the critics can talk about.
Are they the reality, though or are they just part of the illusion? As I told you though, I'm not writing a review, but I am telling you that the movie, because of its foundation in that edgy modern magic, performs a magic trick that has confounded the motion picture industry for generations:
How to humble critics.
Why is it that this movie generates 75 percent or better favorables with fans, but a dismal 44 percent of the critics giving it a thumbs up?
The more that the critics know about this well-crafted screenplay by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt, the less that they can say about the movie made from it. It is a movie about magic and misdirection, after all, and about adversaries underestimating the power of real magic, and the patient plotting and planning of the magicians to execute the most extreme illusions.
The more that critics then say, drawing on the parts of the movie about which they can speak without being spoilers, the dumber they look when they dump on it. The mastery of the movie magicians who made Now You See Me is that they created a taut hybrid bank heist/magic thriller with enough consistent details, chop-saki action scenes, a little romance, and genuine laughs to please a wide, wide audience. The patience and craftsmanship that they employed defies those critics who want to dump on it: Talking about what is real in the film would completely spoil it.
Even if they did choose to do so, when the audience connects all of the dots by the end of the movie, they invariably find the critics' nit-picking around the edges to be a reflection of the reason why we need fewer paid movie critics in a web smack-full of opinions by every Tom (Long), Dick (Roeper) and Harry (Knowles).
According to Forbes: "Now You See Me surpassed expectations this weekend to gross a rather impressive $28 million. That's a solid 2.8x weekend multiplier, which along with its A- Cinemascore ranking (a stat that by itself usually means little), means that this indeed could be a genuine sleeper hit. The film cost $75 million, with much of that paid off via foreign pre-sales, so this should be a profitable venture for all involved."
So we have a movie about magic, magically made, where the magicians, on screen and off, are always seven steps ahead of their antagonists, that does a total Robin Hood, on screen and off, and gives an audience-satisfying comeuppance to all of the smarty pants, on-screen and off, who are non-believers.
This film laughs all the way to the box-office bank when critics try to put it into a simple bank heist picture rhetorical rabbit box, only to find that the nimble screenplay has defied their descriptive abilities once more.
I don't have to be Woody Harrelson's mentalist-hypnotist, Merritt McKinney, to tell you that everything that I have just not told you about the movie, this not being a movie review, is what makes it so compelling that you will see it, and eventually mock the critics who don't get it. Or why, after you re-read this after seeing the movie, you will know how I just wrote the perfect movie review about a movie that cannot be reviewed.
David Copperfield made a pyramid disappear. Criss Angel ground himself under steamroller. Director Louis Letterier waved his directorial wand silencing critics and delighting audiences.
Now that's a magic trick.