Possible spoilers ahead!
Picking up eighteen months, no, make that one year…. Sorry, I think it was two years. No, I take that back, it was last year. Dammit! This is what happens when nearly every character says how long its been since the first movie, but all of them claim a different amount of time has gone by.
So let’s just say its been some time since the original movie, and “Now You See Me 2” sees most of the members of the magician group The Four Horsemen, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) return for more fun. Ever since the events of the first film, the Horsemen have been hiding in the shadows as they await instructions from The Eye.
Atlas has become irritated by how slow things are progressing, as well as the perpetual crypticness of the messages sent from team leader Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo). After a long time of waiting, Dylan reassembles the Horsemen for a new assignment.
To help with the mission, Dylan Rhodes brings in newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan) to fill the void left by the departed Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), who apparently left Jessie Eisenberg after seeing him in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Well, that’s my take, but she apparently left because she got tired of being around Jesse Eisenberg’s Atlas, so it’s basically the same thing.
Anyways, Dylan tasks the magicians with hijacking the launch of a piece of tech that threatens to strip users of their right to privacy. The Horsemen goal is to expose the tech company’s unethical business practices on a large stage. But things don’t go as planned, and the Horsemen are compromised when their greatest secrets are revealed on stage. Things get worse when attempting their escape, the teams is kidnapped by tech prodigy Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who forces the Horseman to pull off their toughest stunt yet in exchange for their freedom.
“Now You See Me” was a surprise hit when it opened in 2013. I liked the movie so much I even named it one of my top 10 movies that year, so you could say I was looking forward to the sequel. “Now You See Me 2” sees “G.I. Joe Retaliation” director Jon M. Chu step in for Louis Leterrier, and Chu does nothing special with the material. But this should come as no surprise if you’ve seen any of the man’s movies, or just ask “Jem & the Holograms” fans.
As for the cast, Mark Ruffalo stood out a little bit more this time around. He was free of having to preserve his character’s twist from the original movie, so Ruffalo was able to give a more well-rounded performance that allowed him to have some fun with the rest of the Horsemen.
Most of Ruffalo’s co-stars however, don’t get much justice from the script. Woody Harrelson has a very bizarre turn as Merritt and his twin brother Chase. I suppose this was done for comedy, but I found it really strange and almost hard to watch at times.
The rest of the cast don’t get character arcs or much development. Jesse Eisenberg does his usual Jesse Eisenberg thing. Dave Franco was at least in the entire movie this time, and Morgan Freeman was fine like always. Michel Caine collected another paycheck, and Harry Potter still sounds like he’s 9 years old.
Lizzy Caplan was a bright spot, and she was an improvement over Isla Fisher. The scenes when we first meet Caplan in Jesse Eisenberg’s apartment were done very well, and got some good laughs from the audience. Unfortunately, we don’t get to know much about the new Horseman, other than she once pulled a hat out of a rabbit.
Just like in the first movie, the magic is meant to be the main attraction, but in the sequel, even the illusions fell flat. The first movie worked well for a simple reason: there were only three magic sequences (Las Vegas, New Orleans, and New York), and only one major action sequence (the car chase).
“Now You See Me 2” wants to be Ocean’s 11, a crime caper, an action movie, a revenger thriller, a comedy, and even a dad/son drama. The sequel is not as sharp as the original, and despite some entertaining moments, “Now You See Me 2” felt largely like the filmmakers said “Let’s make everything bigger and louder” but then forgot about the screenplay.
If by some miracle there is a third act to this series, I hope a new director is brought in, and that some new blood is added to the villain side of things. And if they lose Jesse Eisenberg that’s a-okay by me too.
“Now You See Me 2” final score: 6