Now You See Me 2

'Now You See Me 2' movie poster

Release: Friday, June 10, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Ed Solomon; Pete Chiarelli

Directed by: Jon M. Chu

The implausible Now You See Me sequel — yes, this is a thing — is a magic trick you can see right through from the very beginning. For all the entertainment it seeks to provide, the film delivers an equal dose of numbing visual effects that do nothing but obscure any theoretical cinematic magic wand-shaking under the blinding lights of confused, contrived, utterly lazy storytelling.

Three of the Four Horsemen are back. And no, not from vacation. Well, it was kind of like a vacation. Since the events of the first, the pompous pranksters — J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) — have gone into hiding after exposing the unethical business practices of one Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and fleecing him out of millions of his own easy-earned cash. (Much like director Jon M. Chu has done to us, minus the whole money coming easy part). Isla Fisher’s Henley Reeves, seemingly jaded by the realities of becoming part of the global underground society of illusionists called The Eye, is nowhere to be found. She’s better off.

Uninspired tale finds the group once more answering the call of FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), who, now firmly in control of his puppets (remember that twist?), has this big spectacle planned out during which they’ll expose a tech wizard’s . . . unethical tech-ing practices, some bloke named Owen Case (Ben Lamb), who in no short order becomes nothing more than target practice when it’s learned that the film’s actual villain is Daniel Radcliffe’s even bigger tech geek Walter Mabry.

What does Mabry have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked, because it gives me the opportunity to rave over the next rabbit Now You See Me 2 tries to pull out of its hat. Turns out, Merritt has an evil twin named Chase who works for Mabry, and in one of many underwhelming action sequences he manages to capture the Horsemen and take them to Mabry’s lair (muahaha!), where they’re informed of a high-risk but high-reward job, likely the trickiest task they will have ever pulled off. Do they have a choice? In an exchange that confesses the depths of this film’s Oscar-baiting screenplay, the Horsemen are told they either “do this or die.” Well, I don’t know about you but I’m inspired.

In the meantime, Mabry’s been busy trying to bring about the downfall of the Horsemen from afar, hijacking the aforementioned show by letting the public know that, hey, yeah, remember how Jack Wilder died? Well, he didn’t really. Also, Rhodes is a two-faced cop and is working with the Horsemen. Be outraged, people. Be very outraged. As a result, Agent Rhodes suddenly becomes Agent Rogues when he and the rest of the magicians find themselves scrapping to clear their name all while trying to eliminate the threat of Mabry.

It’s not exactly the most original conceit, but this new globetrotting adventure could have spawned a genuinely exciting mystery thriller if put in the right hands. Co-writers Ed Solomon and Pete Chiarelli were not those hands. Their story, one that at least adheres to the spirit of reckless abandon established in the original, leans entirely on the magic of post-production tinkering, and with Chu’s terribly flat direction further promoting contrivance and convenience, Now You See Me 2 quickly wears out its welcome.

Not helping matters is a runtime that eclipses two hours and a couple of surprisingly annoying performances from Lizzy Caplan, who plays Fisher’s “replacement” Lulu May — because there has to be a Horsewoman, obviously — and one half of Harrelson’s performance as the evil twin Chase. ‘Harrelson’ and ‘annoying’ don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence but then again the guy is a consummate actor. He really can do and be anything. As to Caplan, someone should have taken away the fourteenth Red Bull she was guzzling before stepping on set. This is way too much team spirit for a movie not named Bring It On.

More irksome than Harrelson’s sinister side and Caplan’s insufferably peppy presence is the film’s knack for reducing living legends like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman to cardboard cutouts. Neither Caine convinces he’s this bad of a dude nor Freeman of his ever-complicated backstory. You could defend this as an exercise in allowing actors to have some genuine fun while collecting another paycheck. There’s no shame in putting together a supergroup of talent like this for a bit of escapist entertainment but Caine and Freeman couldn’t look more bored.

Now You See Me 2 pulls gimmicks and cheap tricks left and right in its quest to prove editing can on its own sustain a story. The approach suggests the filmmakers think audiences won’t know the difference between ‘real’ magic and clever camerawork. It’s actually pretty insulting.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 6.48.20 PM

Recommendation: Eyeballs, get ready to roll. Now You See Me 2 takes the worst tendencies of its predecessor and magnifies them. I can handle cheesy films, and NYSM2 is certainly cheesy but it’s more problematic in terms of convincing us that what’s happening in front of us is real. The irony of that is pretty hard to reconcile. This is the epitome of surface gloss hiding no real depth. With that in mind I can’t recommend watching this one to anyone who felt the first one was kind of silly. What follows is much sillier. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 129 mins.

Quoted: “Hell will look like a day at the spa once I’m through with the Four Horseman.” / “You had me at ‘Hell.'”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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15 thoughts on “Now You See Me 2

    • In comparison the first one was genius. 🙂

      I hated em both really, and it’s a good example of why I think some people hate Jesse Eisenberg. He’s such an annoying character in these movies, and all the bad of the first just gets amplified here, unfortunately . It’s bad when Woody Harrelson can’t make things better man

  1. Ick. I really don’t think I will be seeing this. The first one just pissed me off no end. I don’t think I can deal with another. Great write up.

    • Thank you! Yeah if the first made you mad, stay welllllll away from 2! 😉 There is something to be said for the entertainment factor when it comes to watching the likes of Harrelson and Franco in their roles but everyone is so underwritten it’s kind of pointless pretending this is a good movie. And Lizzy Caplan seriously annoyed me here. Like, to the nth degree

      • 😦 What a pity. Franco and Harrelson are entertaining, and I really like Ruffalo, but this? I just can’t. As for Caplan? Shoot me now, but I have never actually liked her. More often than not she just pisses me off, it is rare that she doesn’t irritate me.

        • I do have to say though that most of the time what Caplan representS is generally positive. Like, she’s never a bitch or someone who you feel is a terrible person. But she brings this enthusiasm to this character in such a way that it feels fake and staged. Thats why I don’t like her here. I can see why people don’t get along with her more often though. She’s got that pep in her step that can often be annoying.

  2. Hmm, 3/8… I gave it 2/6. I’m think we are very much on the same page with this one mate. Though I gotta say your review made me laugh more than a couple of times. And it is all so true too. Love that you included the idiotic Eisenburg rain screen-cap, cos that whole scene sums up the movie’s idiocy. Thing is, I like Eisenberg! But not here, no no…

    Interesting that what you say about Woody. He really can do anything can’t he?

    Anyways, great post mate, a great post about a shitty, shitty movie.

    Peace brother 🙂

    • I mean i am just annoyed slightly that I once again failed to listen to my gut instinct and wound up coming out of a very, very stupid movie. There’s definitely entertainment value here but there are so many things wrong with this “franchise” that a lot of the time it’s hard to let things go. The coincidences, the gimmicks, the convenient plot points, the poor character development. All of it’s back. except now this time there are even more problems, like Lizzy Caplan’s incredibly grating performance and Woody Harrelson’s evil twin character was something this movie so did not need.

      • Yeah the evil twin character was dumb. But nothing beats that reaking rain-drops scene. Good god, it has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever seen in a movie. And then when he explains it, its total bullshit!! CGI, Cgi, and some more CGI is what he meant to say.

        Hehe that’s cool we’re on the same page about this one mate 🙂 Tho we usually do agree on most stuff. Except superheroes 😛

        OH! And I bought The Gift on BR. I remember you gave it 8/8 and I only gave it…. like 70% or something. So I’m gonna give it another chance, cos 1) I love Edgo and 2) you rarely steer me wrong 🙂

      • I can’t believe they made a sequel, especially given how hard it must have been to get so many of these actors back together. I haven’t seen it yet but my Asshole compadres were not fans. Actually for a lot of the same reasons that you weren’t.

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