There is no way that when “Now You See Me” was released in 2013, the folks at Lionsgate thought they’d be producing a sequel to be released three years later. But, after an unexpectedly solid box office run and overall approval from audiences, “Now You See Me 2” is essentially a surprise bonus round for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, none of the facts mentioned above make “Now You See Me 2” a good movie. At just over two hours, it’s far too long and most of that time is filled with mind numbing plot twists and turns and silly dialogue being said by highly talented actors.
After three years, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) wants to bring his team of magicians/thieves, the Four Horsemen, out of hiding to reveal a tech giant’s unauthorized surveillance of the general public. Since one of the group left (Isla Fisher couldn’t be in the movie due to pregnancy), Rhodes adds Lula (Lizzy Caplan) to the team of Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), and Jack (Dave Franco).
Nothing goes right during their “heist” and after making a hasty exit from a conference in New York, the Horsemen seem to magically appear in Macao, China. There, they are blackmailed into stealing some fancy tech by Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a fairly deranged rich kid with an army of henchmen (when they are bad guys, they aren’t called bodyguards) who has faked his own death in order to “go off the grid.”
The plot, both literally and figuratively, begins to spiral out of control from there. The Ed Solomon-penned screenplay finds a way to jam the villains from the first movie (played by Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine) in to this convoluted mess. There’s also a dead father-vengeful son angle at work here that is so ho-hum that it’s tough to be invested in it at all.
Another problem at play in “Now You See Me 2” is that magic tricks aren’t magic tricks when created by the miracle of modern day movie CGI. Director Jon M. Chu (with a Justin Bieber documentary on his resume…yikes) can employ all the fancy camera tricks and cool visual effects he wants, but at the end of the day, we all know that “real” magic isn’t in the cards (haha get it) at all.
Not only that, “Now You See Me 2” steals from what may be a record number of movies. If you never thought you’d see a half-cocked version of the famous “clean room” theft from 1996’s “Mission: Impossible” only this time done with a deck of playing cards, well, you’d be wrong.
Normally in blatant cash grabs such as this one, actors seem to be aware of it and sleepwalk through their performances. That actually isn’t the case here. Everyone is having a great time, seemingly aware this is fluff entertainment of the highest order and, sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson snipe at each other to perfection and even get a few laugh out loud moments, mostly at Eisenberg’s expense. There is a completely off the wall, zany plot development that calls for some of Woody’s worst overacting of his career and that is saying a lot.
Mark Ruffalo gets to share most of his screen time with Morgan Freeman, which makes anyone look good, even when Freeman is cruising along with nothing but a payday in his sights. However, not even someone as typically great as Ruffalo can make his character’s revenge storyline work.
The two actors clearly having the most fun are Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe. Caplan, who is remarkably not a household name by now, is part fangirl-part super magician and she does awkward over-speaking as well as any actress going.
Radcliffe is clearly embracing his villainous role. Sure, he chews the scenery at an alarming rate, but it is a blast to see this normally wholesome, sugary sweet actor go full psycho. It’s going to be a hoot to see him play a Bond villain 20 years from now.
Look, “Now You See Me 2” isn’t trying to blow away box office records or win awards. It’s escapist entertainment that goes in one ear and quickly out the other. At the very least, it’s an original idea and not a reboot or a remake. So points for originality…but the execution is seriously lacking.