Director – Duwayne Dunham, Teleplay – P.A. Fritz, Producer – Jacqueline George, Photography – Robert E. Seaman, Music – Philip Marshall, Visual Effects Supervisor – Kevin Althans, Visual Effects – Reel FX Creative Studios, Special Effects Supervisors – Jack Lynch & David Nami, Production Design – Kelly Curley. Production Company – Disney/Evolution
Alyson Michalka (Allyson Miller), Johnny Pacar (Danny Sinclair), Frank Langella (Max), Brendan Hill (Cedric), Chris Olivero (Hunter), Gabriel Sunday (Brandon Ross), Amanda Shaw (Zoe Cunningham), Deneen D. Tyler (Ms McAllister)
Teenager Allyson Miller joins a competition to make a reality tv show that sets out to find the country’s best young magician. After despairing of finding anybody worth putting on air, Allyson comes across Danny Sinclair. Danny initially fails multiple times in a trick to make a pigeon appear out of a popped balloon – only for dozens of pigeons appear out of the back of the car when they go to leave. The various contestants go to Magic Mansion where the competition is being filmed and MC’d by the famous magician Max. As the competition gets underway, Danny manages to do a series of tricks that amaze everybody. He confesses that he has no idea how he does it and that he believes his powers are real. Max holds an enquiry in which he demonstrates that Danny’s claiming real magical powers is part of the illusion. However, Allyson uncovers evidence that Max has hidden the fact that he knows that Danny’s powers are real and is preparing to kill Danny off.
Not to be confused with the high-profile Now You See Me (2013) about bank-robbing magicians, Now You See It is that rarity of – one is surprised to hear themselves say it, having never thought they would – a good movie made for the Disney Channel. It is a venture into the topic of the stage magician whose powers are real, which has appeared on film a number of times before – see efforts like Lord of Illusions (1995), The Illusionist (2006), The Prestige (2006) and the Dante the Great segment of V/H/S Viral (2014).
Someone in the production clearly knows their prestidigitation and readily namedrops the names of many of the great magicians, while the production has also managed to obtain permission to shoot at the real life Magic Castle, a famous nightclub and performing venue for magicians in Hollywood. Even the idea of a reality tv series to find the country’s best young magician is something that one is quite certain would be a success in real life. The story is told modestly and effectively. There is a fine climax to the film with Johnny Pacar putting on a magic show and Frank Langella trying to kill him with their mutual upstagings of one another blurring in and out of real magic and what the audiences takes to be illusion.
One of the finest aspects of Now You See It are the two young performers. In the lead role, Alyson Michalka has a natural sunny brightness and is probably someone we will hear from again in the next few years. Indeed, she projects such a natural and likeable screen presence that she seems miscast for the role that she is meant to be filling – she is just too good-looking to be written off as someone who is ultra-nerdy and has her peers rolling their eyes whenever she opens her mouth. Equally, Johnny Pacar plays with a natural laconic laidback cool and is someone who one expects to hear more from soon. If Now You See It didn’t have either of them, it could easily have disappeared into being yet another forgettable Disney Channel children’s movie.