Is there a profession more glamorous than that of a magician? Night after night, men in sharp suits with breathtaking assistants confound the senses with tricks that leave their audiences stumped years later.

OK, what about that of a bank robber? Bonnie and Clyde are just two thieves whose quick getaways and outrageous deeds inspired awe in those from whom they didn't steal.

"Now You See Me" gives us four people who are both. A mysterious benefactor who sees talent in these struggling, mostly street magicians brings them together as the Four Horsemen, where they take Las Vegas by storm. And the world, too, once they unleash their biggest feat: robbing a bank in Paris while never leaving their Las Vegas stage. It doesn't hurt their popularity that they shower the take over a grateful audience.

Real audiences should be grateful to the foursome, too. "Now You See Me" is a rarity: a summer movie that manages to entertain without killing off a single of its viewers' brain cells.


On screen
'Now You See Me'
» Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson
» Director: Louis Leterrier
» Rated: PG-13 for language, some action and sexual content
» Running time: 116 minutes

The Horsemen are led by J. Daniel Atlas -- not his real name, of course -- a small showman who is clearly in magic for the fame (and the girls). Daniel's (Jesse Eisenberg) former assistant Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) has graduated to full-fledged illusionist herself and joins the team, along with the rather talented pickpocket Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and almost-charming con artist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson). Their audacity is stunning but can't go unnoticed by the authorities. So they're soon brought in for questioning by FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent).

The fun in magic is knowing you've been tricked and spending vain hours trying to figure out how. There are plenty of surprises in "Now You See Me." The first is how well this ragtag band of actors works together. Harrelson plays the smarmy, almost-dirty old man, while Fisher is the very attractive but hardheaded achiever who has to fend him off constantly. All four visibly become better showmen as the movie goes on. In a nod to realism, they're not perfect when they start their careers. Ruffalo's FBI guy, as is always the case in the movies, doesn't appreciate being partnered with an out-of-towner -- until he begins to notice how utterly delightful Laurent is.

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman add a bit of heft, as the bankroller of the Horsemen and the James Randi-like skeptic who debunks tricksters, respectively. The scenes they have together are also an awful lot of fun.

FBI agent Rhodes is as skeptical as Freeman's character. He's not interested in learning anything about magic, just solving the case -- whereas Interpol agent Dray realizes she needs to do one to do the other. She teasingly asks Rhodes, after playing a trick she's just learned on him, "Did you feel exploited or did you maybe have a bit of fun?" "Now You See Me" certainly offers the latter, without the cynical exploitation of most summer fare.