Now You See Me 2 is a forgettable sequel that fails to live up to the magic of the original.
When it first hit cinemas back in 2013, Now You See Me was an unexpected success. Despite mixed reviews, it somehow conjured up a hefty pile of cash at the box-office, and you know what that means – ding, ding, ding – time for a sequel!
Directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 3), Now You See Me 2 sees the famous quartet of magicians known as the Horsemen lured out of hiding and tasked with aiding a mysterious millionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) with an audacious heist. Except, as always, there is more to see than first meets the eye. Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), Jack (Dave Franco), Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) and new recruit Lula (Lizzy Caplan) must also outwit an old foe (Morgan Freeman) if they are to execute their daring hoax and escape together.
With such a stupendously talented cast to call upon, it genuinely saddens me to report that Now You See Me 2 is a ludicrous affair. I don’t take issue with implausibility; like most cinemagoers, I derive enjoyment from the brief slice of escapism that movies offer. But Now You See Me 2 stretches beyond implausibility and strays neck-deep into impossibility.
Radcliffe plays a squeaky Mark Zuckerberg knock-off who forcibly recruits the Horsemen to steal some high-tech thingamajig that’ll supposedly allow him to hack any device on the planet,. His inclusion reeks of stunt casting, particularly as his character vocally shuns magic and chooses instead to champion science – or ‘real magic’ as he calls it. Haha, I geddit, it’s because he played Harry Potter. Hilarious.
Eisenberg is particularly insufferable here whilst 90% of Franco’s character can be found in his 80-watt smile and perfect hair. With Isla Fisher exiting stage right between installments, the film introduces Caplan as the fourth Horseman in her absence. The film knowingly pokes fun at her ‘token female’ status, but that doesn’t really make it any less egregious. That she could essentially be playing the same character as Isla and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference tells you everything you need to know.
Harrelson is the exception; his natural swagger breathes life into some otherwise clunky dialogue. However, one key fact that the trailers were keen to hide is that Harrelson actually plays a dual-role; he also plays Merritt’s evil identical twin in an absurd goofy gimmick that is literally as stupid as it sounds.
The only character we genuinely care about throughout the movie is Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes; balancing a double life as ringmaster and FBI agent, Rhodes’ continued arc actually carries depth. He propels the plot and gives the audience someone to actually root for. Even still, his particular set of skills are a little broad – one moment he’s a magician, the next he’s a pirouetting action hero, like some Franken mishmash of David Blaine and John McClane.
Like any half-decent magic show, Now You See Me 2 relies on flashiness and misdirection to disguise its lack of depth and painfully evident narrative shortcomings. There are sporadic flickers of genuine movie magic, but when the lights come up and the curtain closes, you’ll be left utterly bewildered by what unfolded. It’s time for this series to perform its greatest trick of all and disappear for good.
Now You See Me 2 is available in Australian cinemas from June 2
Image courtesy of Entertainment One Films