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Now you don't Now You See Me 2'

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Likeable, talented cast can't quite save magical misfire

The summer of 2016 has already seen a number of unnecessary sequels. Due to unanticipated degrees of box office success, certain movies have been tapped to receive sequels despite having already told their story to a more or less satisfactory conclusion. These non-franchise sequels almost always turn out to be disappointments.

The latest addition to the roster is 'Now You See Me 2,' a sequel to 2013's surprisingly fun stage magician caper film. Just about everybody from that first film is back Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman but unfortunately, the 'isn't this ridiculous?' fun-time vibe from that initial offering is not.

The Four Horsemen are still in hiding following the climactic events of the first film. J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) is trying to unravel the secrets behind the mysterious magic organization known as The Eye, while Merritt McKinney (Harrelson) and the presumed-dead Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are biding their time, waiting to find out their next move. Meanwhile, Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) is still working for the FBI, using his position to try and steer prying eyes away from the Horsemen and utilize resources for wild goose chases.

When The Eye decides to take down a tech company on the verge of completely compromising digital privacy, the Horsemen are brought back together with a new member named Lula (Lizzy Kaplan, 'The Night Before') replacing the now-departed Henley for another big magic show.

Only it turns out that they're the ones who have been tricked.

It turns out that a reclusive billionaire named Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, 'Victor Frankenstein') has decided to exact revenge on the Horsemen on behalf of those most impacted by the previous actions of the magicians Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine, 'Youth') and Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman, 'London Has Fallen').

Mabry demands that they steal some sort of high-tech MacGuffin that will allow unlimited access to any and all computer systems the world over. Trapped in another country with no way to get home, the Four Horsemen must try and pull off yet another heist, hoping all the while that Rhodes and The Eye can find a way to help them find a safe way out.

'Now You See Me 2' is the kind of twist-laden narrative that proves difficult to describe, but while the first one was fun and freewheeling, the sequel is much more point-by-point plodding. At times, it almost feels like a checklist of plot points rather than a full-on narrative. It's busy, but not a lot actually happens. In addition, the action has moved even further away from the stage magic that is ostensibly its central conceit, choosing instead to wallow in some muddled realm of magical sort-of-realism that proves ill-fitting.

(On a related note how someone can make a sequel to a movie called 'Now You See Me' and name it anything other than 'Now You Don't' is absolutely beyond my capacity for understanding. I mean, come on it's RIGHT THERE.)

Jon M. Chu's directorial CV is mostly made up of dance movies and Justin Bieber documentaries (though he did do a 'G.I. Joe' movie and ugh 'Jem and the Holograms'); this information will not surprise anyone who sees 'NYSM2.' It's definitely a visually charged movie, with lots of big speedy movement and bright colors. Unfortunately, the aesthetic is still a confused one, which frankly matches the patchwork vibe of the narrative.

In terms of performance, it's tough to complain. There's some real talent here and they seem aware that they're slumming it a bit but no one seems to be actively resentful about being there. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but that's actually a pretty big deal for a blatant cash grab like this one.

Eisenberg is mopey and self-serious, but in a character-appropriate fashion. Ruffalo is mumbly, but clearly having fun. Franco and Kaplan also seem to be having a good time. Harrelson (who also gets to play a twin) is absolutely relishing every minute he's on-screen. Radcliffe is a scenery-gnawing delight; he's enjoying himself almost as much as warhorses like Caine and Freeman, who spend every scene exuding a smug air of getting paid big money for work they can do in their sleep.

Money is the only reason that 'Now You See Me 2' exists. That being said, it has some entertaining moments, both in terms of spectacle and performance. It's muddled and messy and noncommittal about what kind of movie it wants to be you know, other than profitable but the pleasure taken by the cast makes it a reasonably tolerable experience.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 13:14


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