Movie review: Now You See Me

The cult of celebrity is at the heart of Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (15A), which is based on a true story.

Movie review: Now You See Me

Teenagers led by Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard) and Nicki (Emma Watson) invade the homes of Hollywood stars, such as Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom. The teenagers’ obsession with their heroes seems endearingly naive and their first ‘invasion’ — after Paris Hilton announces on Facebook that she’ll be out of town for the weekend — is a poignant, desperate desire to associate themselves with perceived glamour, until they grow bolder and steal, and are soon fencing goods through a seedy nightclub manager. The movie is fascinating and infuriating in equal measure. The ringleaders are utterly, casually, and instinctively immoral, and deserve our opprobrium (they’re comfortably middle-class, and steal out of boredom), yet it’s difficult not to pity them and their pathetic vacuity as they strive to get closer to their icons by stealing their intimate possessions. It’s never clear if Sofia Coppola intends us to sympathise with her characters or their victims, and the tone is a cross between the Valley-speak satire of Clueless (1995) and the vapid existentialism of Less Than Zero (1987). Coppola, who splices in CCTV footage of the break-ins, allows the events to speak for themselves. That’s an unusually mature approach in these days of cartoonish, simplistic movie narratives, but it pays off handsomely. Watson may well be the marquee name here, but it’s Katie Chang who characterises the movie, with her turn as a hollowed-out, baby-faced sociopath.

Now You See Me (12A) opens with an intriguing set-piece, in which magicians, J Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) steal €3m from a Parisian bank, while conducting a show in Las Vegas. FBI agent, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), wants to know how the trick was pulled, so as to put the quartet in prison, but Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a veteran debunker of magicians’ tricks, suggests that Rhodes’ has been misdirected and that the quartet have far bigger fish to fry than a single Parisian bank. So begins a convoluted tale of magic, illusion and confidence tricks, as the magicians create ever more impressive and bewildering scenarios before a revelatory climax. Directed by Louis Leterrier, the movie should be a pacy, tense thriller of double-bluff and triple-cross, but the story is weighed down by too much exposition (each illusion is explained in retrospect), while the magicians’ motives are revealed as tortuously complex and ridiculously implausible. Eisenberg and Harrelson are both neatly cast as fast-talking conmen, but the characters played by Fisher and Franco are window-dressing, and a romantic subplot to fill out Ruffalo’s character is little more than padding.

The Internship (12A) pairs the likeable Owen Wilson with the boorishly loud Vince Vaughn, as they play a couple of outmoded, middle-aged wristwatch salesman who apply to Google’s internship programme to reboot their careers. Co-written by Vaughn and directed by Shawn Levy, it’s a comedy that depends heavily on Wilson and Vaughn’s fish-out-of-water routine, as they struggle to apply the lessons they learned at the university of hard knocks to an environment in which they don’t understand the technology or even the language. Their bid to thrive at ‘googliness’, to attain the nirvana of a Google internship, is described as a ‘mental Hunger Games’, but, in truth, this is a predictable tale of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. To a large extent a promo video for Google, the movie is so fawning in its treatment of the search-engine giant that it becomes an unwitting satire, as the painfully cool kids sip long and lustily at the Kool-Aid, and the multi-coloured Google campus (‘the Garden of Eden’, apparently) comes to resemble a kind of prison camp devised by Willy Wonka. Old sparring partners, Wilson and Vaughn dovetail well together, and their old-geezer schtick generates some laughs at the expense of the po-faced Google management, but the jokes are too few and well-worn.

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