Movie review: ‘Now You See Me 2’ doesn’t do the trick
A completely unnecessary sequel, “Now You See Me 2” is full of hocus-pocus that lacks focus.
The plot gives new definition to convoluted. You go along for the ride because of the presence of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo, hoping they’ll pull a rabbit out of the hat. But that chapeau contains nothing but air.
The niftiest trick is the sleight of hand director Jon M. Chu employs in stealing two hours of our lives. Chu (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” several “Step Up” installments and “Jem and the Holograms”) doesn’t know how to tell a coherent story, and he strands his cast, which also includes Lizzie Caplan, Dave Franco, Michael Caine and Daniel Radcliffe. The one thing Chu does well is choreograph an elaborate illusion in which the magicians demonstrate their “cardistry” abilities while slyly flipping and tossing a playing card between themselves as they are frisked. The movie could use more magic like that. After all, that’s what made the first film such a surprise delight. It, too, was light on story, but full of clever diversions; this installment, not so much. It never really gets going.
When we catch up with the Four Horsemen — the merry band of three men and one woman who pull off elaborate heists against corrupt institutions — are in hiding. The film opens one year after the events in the first movie, and Atlas (Eisenberg), Jack (Franco) and Merritt (Harrelson) are itching to get back to work. After an amusing introduction, Caplan continues to infuse some much-needed fresh-and-funny energy, as she more than aptly replaces Isla Fisher. This time out, Harrelson pulls double duty, also playing his twin hypnotist brother. Also back are Ruffalo’s FBI agent Dylan Rhodes and Freeman’s famed debunker Thaddeus Bradley. Their back story wants to add emotional heft to the script, and it almost does because the actors skillfully prop up the lame material. If only the script weren’t weighed down by so much other dumb stuff, such as annoying father-son villains played by Caine and Radcliffe. They force the Four Horsemen to steal some wicked-powerful microchip called “the stick,” which can retrieve data from anyone’s computer. The movie tries to be oh-so topical in addressing privacy issues. A fifth Horseman is revealed there is a lot of talk about an ancient secret magic society called the Eye. Yes, the script from veteran writer Ed Solomon (“Men in Black,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The In-Laws.”) is almost as silly as it’s implausible.
After their reunion performance against communications giant Octa goes off the rails, the script sends the Horsemen to Macau, where a cat-and-mouse game with the FBI and the evil Walter Mabry (Radcliffe, who could have used some of his Harry Potter magic) ensues. Everything leads up to a grand finale on New Year’s Eve in London. The movie starts to redeem itself during that final act, but unfortunately the lead-up doesn’t do the trick.
— Dana Barbuto may be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.
“Now You See Me 2”
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
(PG-13 for violence and some language)