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Awesome: 14.29%
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Pretty Bad85.71%
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1 review, 1 rating

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Now You See Me 2
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by Jay Seaver

"No, you shouldn't."
2 stars

There are both optimistic and pessimistic reasons not to give the sequel to 2013's "Now You See Me" the obvious title of "...Now You Don't". In the case of it being another box-office success, there's no obvious place to go for a third entry; in the case that it's not, you don't exactly want to hand the jerks who right headlines for trade publications anything too obvious. They might as well have gone for it, since there's not exactly enough material for a sequel, and the original was not good enough to just do it again without something new.

Sadly, my theory that revenge-seeing mastermind slash FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) killed his accomplices/dupes off-screen at the end of the first movie turns out to not be the case; the lot of them are now working for "The Eye", a secret society that Rhodes apparently didn't make up last time. They've been in hiding for the past year, training, but are summoned to expose how a new smartphone will completely decimate piracy. It goes completely wrong, with showman J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), mesmerist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), card sharp Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and new recruit Lula (Lizzy Caplan) sliding down a disposal chute in New York and somehow coming out in Macau, where mysterious tech baron Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) blackmails them into trying to steal the chip that they had intended to expose, with Rhodes trying to track down what went wrong with the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), the professional debunker he left holding the bag in the previous year's caper.

For reasons quickly glossed over, Henley Reeves is no longer part of the group, and it's weird that Isla Fisher and Melanie Laurent are considered expendable/replaceable but the filmmakers just have to bring back Michael Caine's character despite the film not needing more in the way of villains, right? Maybe the ladies just weren't available, and while Michael Caine at 83 is no longer so afraid of unemployment that he'll take anything, he apparently still likes to keep working and does make his scenes better. There are some other things about the sequel that come off as strange, though, like how they set a large chunk of the film in Macau, even having everyone in the Cantonese-speaking city speak Mandarin to hopefully appeal to the Chinese market, but don't give Taiwanese star Jay Chou much to do at all. "The Eye", prviously said to be the guardians of real magic, are now apparently just a secret organization that uses illusionists like "The Horsemen" as vigilantes - though not so secret that they won't project their Eye-of-Horus logo into the sky like they were trying to summon some sort of Egyptian-themed Batman.

The big problem, though, is one shared with the first: Screenwriter Ed Solomon and the other contributors fundamentally misunderstand the appeal of "magic", building the film's big set-pieces around tricks that are impossible enough that they need to be realized with digital effects or Merrick's otherworldly mind-control skills, rather than genuine displays of skill (see also Mabry's trying to contrast his use of science and technology with "magic", like that's not what stage magicians do). Director Jon M. Chu, best-known for doing movies in the Step Up series as well as a number of other dance-oriented material, is a fairly nice match for this, as even if much of what is on display is CGI rather than sleight-of-hand, it still requires a guy who can capture motion as well as Chu and cinematographer Peter Deming do, while Chu and the other filmmakers give the whole film a slick veneer that matches both the showmanship of the Horsemen and the high-tech methods of Mabry. Even more than its predecessor, Now You See Me 2 is polished as heck as it aims to distract from how it's even more lightweight and nonsensical than it appears.

That's also what it does with a terrific cast. New additions Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan are put in somewhat similar situations, giving high-energy performances to add a new dynamic to what would otherwise be familiar situations and try to cover that neither character has a whole lot to add (Lula's gross-out showmanship isn't as obvious a fit into a stage-magician superhero team as the escape artist she replaced). Eisenberg, Franco, and Ruffalo all work as good team players, not able to salvage bad material but never checking out, although Woody Harrelson is stuck with a poorly-conceived dual role and often seems half a step behind his younger teammates. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, charged with classing the joint up a bit,earn their paychecks.

The first "Now You See Me" wasn't a good movie, and while the sequel is not more than a notch or two beneath it, it's little more than a similarly-slick attempt to replicate the prior movie's success, but this isn't the sort of magic trick where seeing it a second time after the secrets have been revealed demonstrates impressive craft; instead, it reminds one of how little scrutiny the first was given without taking into account the heightened attention given the second time around.

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originally posted: 07/04/16 07:29:23
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User Comments

9/29/16 Angel Baby Araiza Just as good as part one 5 stars
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  10-Jun-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Sep-2016


  DVD: 06-Sep-2016

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