Now You See Me opens with a wonderful gambit that could not possibly fit the movie any better: arrogant Chicago-based street magician J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) asks a woman just off screen to pick a card as he flips extremely quickly through a deck. A moment later, he apologises for flipping through so fast and slows down a bit, offering to let her pick again, but the editing has already done its work: the first run through, a bit of post-production manipulation left a single card on for just enough frames that the film viewer is already thinking about it, and so, when Daniel inevitably reveals that exact card (in a big, zany way), the viewer, like the mark in the magic show, has been played by the most ancient sleight-of-hand tricks, and even if it's pretty obvious that the 7 of diamonds has been "forced" on us, the sheer magnitude of the film's glitzy chutzpah is utterly precious.

That's basically what the film is going to be for the rest of its running time: an exercise in constant misdirection, announcing itself loudly enough that, in honesty, it's not really hard to see the general shape of what's going on (though I will freely admit that I was tripped up by the details of the ending, having been willing enough to give into the ride that I stopped trying to get ahead of the movie early on, because where's the fun in that?), and certainly, any movie about magicians - magicians who rob banks, in particular - is so clearly going to have nothing but twists in its last 30 minutes that you can't help but be a little deflated by the reveals when they start happening. At least some of them are going to be predictable, even to a dreadfully inattentive viewer. But the enthusiasm and bouncy energy with which the film rockets through its plot, and the having-a-good-time performances of the entire cast, are enough to keep it peppy and fun despite (or, rather, because of) how utterly shallow and trivial it is.

Openly admitting its desire to be an illusion-themed Ocean's Eleven, Now You See Me opens with an unseen man in a hoodie gathering four talented but mostly unknown magicians together to show them - via anonymous hologram, no less - the plan for an amazing trick that will blow everybody's mind. These four are Daniel, drifting con artist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Los Angeles-based violence specialist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Brooklynite grifter Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and when we next see them in Las Vegas, headlining a major new show funded by insurance entrepreneur Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), they're going as the Four Horsemen, and the ending of a terrific debut show involves the apparent theft by transporter of a bank in Paris.

This illusion brings them to the attention of both the FBI, in the form of the easily-bamboozled Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), and Interpol, in the form of magic enthusiast Agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent). With the condescending help of professional magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), they perpetual end up just a few steps behind the Horsemen as they embark on a quick but intense tour of shows in New Orleans and New York to perform a modern-day Robin Hood act while showing off their talents in CGI-speckled but gleefully colorful and kinetic stage magic.

In other words, authentic the film really isn't. Presumably, many of the things we see could be achieved onstage, with enough money and technical know-how, but it's frequently very obvious that it isn't, and that's certainly a bit of a problem, though the drive of the movie isn't the tricks being depicted, but the agents' harried attempts, after-the-fact, to deconstruct them. And this, at least, doesn't require that those tricks be plausible in the moment.

Another thing the film isn't: ingenious. Some caper films (the aforementioned Ocean's Eleven> leaps to mind) are so delightfully assembled that when the game has played itself out, you can't wait to get ride back in and watch all the mechanics slide together with the most graceful of ease, and this was not, I found, the case with Now You See Me: having figured out the way everything fits together, there's no hair-raising "aha!" moment, just a satisfaction that there are no film-breaking holes to speak of (other than a dippy penultimate scene), and that everything we saw served some deliberate purpose that's only clear in retrospect. But it doesn't have the giddy champagne sense of fun of an Ocean's picture, or The Sting, or Inside Man, and I will frankly confess that having seen it once, I can imagine no real need to ever see it again.

Inasmuch as rewatchability is a good, quick 'n dirty way to judge the general quality of a popcorn-type movie, this doesn't speak very highly of Now You See Me, of course; particularly since the notion of a good twist is that it re-frames the story in a way that makes it feel like revisiting is an absolute necessity. But a solid story isn't the be-all and end-all, and what the film does has is all kinds of razzle-dazzle, directed by Louis Leterrier with his customary speed-freak flying cameras and high-speed editing (though the massive crane shots and the quick cuts don't happen simultaneously, thank God), and it's the perfect kind of eye candy for an undemanding summer afternoon. It also has a fairly great, and distinctly over-qualified, cast (Caine, Freeman, and Ruffalo? One of them slumming is a regular annoyance, all three doing it at once is jaw-dropping), being thoroughly un-serious about anything they're doing, particularly Eisenberg with his strange little beard, and Freeman, who's having far too much fun being smug at everybody.

It's a cocktail, pretty-colored and bad for you and refreshing as far as it goes. It's true to its concept, making the idea of magic tricks seem spectacular and mystifying and too cool to make looking for the explanations really very rewarding. There are many better movies that are very similar, but this one's fun enough when you agree to meet it on its own level, and besides, Rififi isn't playing in movie theaters right now, anyway.