Med City Movie Guy: Solid cast fails to work real screen magic

"The closer you look, the less you see" is Eisenberg's catchphrase in middling new release "Now You See Me."

Jesse Eisenberg and a solid ensemble cast work their magic in the new heist film "Now You See Me." Too bad there's nothing up its sleeve.

Mysteriously brought together, Eisenberg, Isla Fisher ("The Great Gatsby"), Dave Franco ("21 Jump Street") and Woody Harrelson ("The Hunger Games") perform as "The Four Horsemen" in a popular flamboyant Las Vegas show.

Their "illusions" are a confounding mix of social justice and personal vengeance with a dash of immortality thrown in to confuse moviegoers. For instance, an early heist transports one of their audience members to a Paris bank whose vault contents are redistributed to show attendees.

In another performance, their sponsor (Michael Caine), who apparently heads an insurance company, is monetarily bled dry in restitution for all of his firm's denied claims. A final dramatic maneuver is supposed to earn them a spot in a secret society called "The Eye," though this plot point is only lackadaisically explored.

On their trail throughout are both an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and the professional debunker (Morgan Freeman) he enlists to help solve the heists.


Eisenberg channels his cocky-yet-detached Zuckerberg character from 2010's "The Social Network," wonderfully sassing at one point about being the smartest guy in the room, as if he were lecturing the Winklevoss twins. Harrelson's shake-down "mentalist" is a riot and scene-stealer. Ruffalo and Freeman adeptly alternate one-step-ahead-one-step-behind moments.

The effects are awesome, beginning with Eisenberg's street magic (he makes a seven of diamonds appear on the side of Chicago's Hancock building). The Vegas scenes and opening heist were reminiscent of the best parts of 2001's "Ocean's Eleven." This one's immediately intriguing and it grabbed me in the first 10 minutes. Unfortunately, it lost me in the last 10.

What happened? For one thing, it wrapped up too quickly a tremendously unsatisfying and somewhat confusing storyline. Some details felt contrived, others were introduced too suddenly or too late. Misdirection is a fundamental tool wielded by all magicians — indeed, Eisenberg's catchphrase here is "the closer you look the less you see" — but "Now You See Me" tried so hard to keep us guessing that the final "reveal" just didn't match the setup. It deserved better.

3 honks

Chris Miksanek is a Rochester freelance writer. Follow him on the Center Stage blog at .

Jesse Eisenberg plays most of his characters uniquely wry and sardonic and rarely over the top. Here are a few of my favorites.



"The Social Network." This critically-acclaimed 2010 drama earned Eisenberg noms for his purportedly spot-on depiction of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. I "liked" this one.

In "Zombieland," Eisenberg teamed with Woody Harrelson to find survivors and Twinkies.

Eisenberg paired with Ellen Page in last year’s eclectic Woody Allen comedy "To Rome with Love," though theirs was not the funniest of the four stories.

Underemployed at a second-rate amusement park called "Adventureland," Eisenberg meets the always broody Kristen Stewart. Lots of laughs from Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig save this one.

Eisenberg voices Blu, a Macaw, in the easy-to-overlook animated feature "Rio." Though worth a watch, it is otherwise unremarkable except that his character is from Moose Lake, Minnesota!


Readers, what’s your favorite Jesse Eisenberg film? Visit the Center Stage BLOG at and tell me.

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