There is no such thing as a magician's supergroup.

There is no such thing as a magician’s supergroup.

Next to the nadir that is After Earth, the magician caper Now You See Me has started to look pretty good. Don’t be fooled: It is about as bad, if less pretentious.

Four entertainers -a mentalist, an illusionist, an escapist and a skilled thief- are compelled by a mysterious entity to put a show together. Cut to a year later: The foursome is staging spectacular robberies and the police can’t prove their responsibility (could it be… magic?). A preternaturally angry detective (Mark Ruffalo) and a laid back Interpol agent (Melanie Laurent) must anticipate the group next move, before another fat cat gets his bank account emptied.

Directed by the consistently terrible Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans), Now You See Me assumes that audiences and critical thinking are not acquainted (granted, he is not wrong). It plays like Ocean’s Eleven with a barely developed esoteric strain instead of Steven Soderbergh’s steady hand.

Of all the cheap twist and turns in Now You See Me, the weakest one is to turn the thieves into Robin Hoods of the digital era. Of course the police is off-the-charts incompetent: When a dead body is used for a trick, it still has the morgue’s tags attached and nobody notices. You may find more entertainment listing all the implausible events in the movie than from the torturous plot.

The likeable cast is given little to worth with. Jesse Eisenberg plays the leader of the group as Mark Zuckerberg in full jerk mode. He is the best of the bunch. The rest is flat as a cartoon, including veterans who should know better (namely, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman). Ruffalo is particularly shaky, but the incoherence that plagues his character comes from a flawed script (from the guy who wrote Prince of Persia!).

Between this and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone I could use a ban on movies about magicians. There is a significant surprise towards the end that seems spectacularly inconsistent with the rest of the film. But I couldn’t be coerced to watch this horror a second time.

One and a half prairie dogs… puff… and now they are gone.